Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo deserves FIFA Best award - Zidane
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said that Cristiano Ronaldo deserved to retain The Best FIFA men's player award on Monday evening in London, speaking after another personally frustrating domestic showing for the Portuguese in Sunday evening's 3-0 La Liga victory at home to Eibar at the Bernabeu.
Madrid eased to victory over an out of form Eibar, helped on their way by Paulo Oliveira's 18th-minute own goal, which was soon followed by a clever Marco Asensio finish past unsighted goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic.
The second half was lower-key until late on when substitute Marcelo rounded off the scoring with a sweet low strike to finish off a superb one-touch move also involving Karim Benzema and Theo Hernandez.
Twenty-four hours before he is likely to beat Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Paris Saint-Germain's Neymar to another individual award, Ronaldo was again not at his sharpest and missed a second-half one-on-one with Dmitrovic. But Zidane suggested in his postmatch news conference that the 32-year-old's decisive contribution to last season's La Liga and Champions League double was all important.
"Ronaldo is the best player of his generation, by a long way," Zidane said. "He has shown that many times, he makes the difference in the big games. It is very deserved what he is winning tomorrow, all his prizes are deserved. He always shows he wants to be the best, and he is."
Ronaldo is still on just one La Liga goal in 2017-18, from 33 shots, however Zidane said such statistical anomalies were not a concern.
"When Cristiano does not score I get asked always the same thing," he said. "We are not worried, although it is better when he scores. It is important for him, but the most important is that he is getting chances. This lasts a long time. He is top scorer in the Champions League, and has a chance to score again next week in La Liga [at Girona]."
Zidane himself is also shortlisted for The Best FIFA's men's coach award, alongside Juventus' Massimiliano Allegri and Chelsea manager Antonio Conte. Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas is also favoured for recognition in the goalkeeper category, where the other nominees are Juve's Gianluigi Buffon and Bayern Munich shot-stopper Manuel Neuer.
After becoming the first team to retain the European Cup in the Champions League era, Madrid are also expected to dominate the FIFA FIFPro World XI selection. They have 12 players in the running -- Ronaldo, Navas, Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane, Dani Carvajal, Marcelo, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Isco, Casemiro, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema.
Sunday's result lifts Madrid back into third place in La Liga, although they remain five points behind leaders Barcelona. Zidane admitted his team had "lacked fluidity" but reminded critics that like their star forward they play their best when the really important games came around.
"We did lack a bit of fluidity in our play," he said. "But the most important thing for us was to win, and score goals. We got three, and kept a clean sheet, which is important for us too. We also made many [five] changes today, so we can be happy with how they all played. We cannot play at our very best every week, it is impossible, but when there is a trophy to be won we do it -- as against Manchester [United] and Barcelona [in August's Super Cups]."
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan