Cristiano Ronaldo disagreements no issue - Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos
Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos says he and Cristiano Ronaldo can have different opinions but they remain great friends who are "rowing in the same direction."
Recent weeks have seen Ramos and Ronaldo on opposite sides of a debate around the Bernabeu over whether the squad has been weakened by the summer departures of squad players James Rodriguez, Alvaro Morata and Pepe, with youngsters Dani Ceballos, Borja Mayoral and Jesus Vallejo having taken their place.
Speaking after Madrid's 3-1 Champions League defeat at Tottenham in November, Ronaldo suggested the squad's talented youngsters were not yet ready to step up, with Ramos later saying people making such public comments were being opportunistic.
The issue has continued to drag on, with all the substitutes used by Zidane so far this term contributing only three goals between them, and two of those coming from usual starters Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcelo. Marca has highlighted that Morata alone had scored four goals as a substitute at this stage last season.
Speaking on TV Espana, Ramos said: "Nothing happened between Cris and I. We've always been great friends. We both have a lot of character, and different opinions, but we are rowing in the same direction."
Following Saturday's 0-0 La Liga draw at Athletic Bilbao, AS compared this season so far to 2015-16 under Rafa Benitez, and pointed out that Zidane's side currently have two fewer points and have scored seven fewer goals with 14 games played than they had under the current Newcastle boss.
However, Madrid ended up winning the Champions League that season after Zidane took charge in January, and Ramos remains upbeat about their hopes of enjoying a successful campaign.
"A draw like this is a crisis here [at Madrid]," he said. "We must remain calm and confident and go from objective to objective. Maybe it has not been the best start to a season in history but we are still up there fighting for all the trophies."
Next week's Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi brings another chance for silverware, and Ramos said victory there would set Madrid up nicely for the La Liga Clasico against Barcelona on Dec. 23.
"We hope to return with another title as that is good for the spirit of the group," he said. "It would be very good for us ahead of the Clasico, which is three very important points."
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