Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho has lauded under-fire star Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of the Copa del Rey showdown against Barcelona, describing the forward's second-half performance against Real Mallorca as the one he has liked best since taking charge.
Ronaldo has been the victim of whistles from some Madrid fans in recent home matches, but Mourinho insists no-one could find fault with the Portugal international's efforts against Mallorca on Saturday.
Ronaldo did not manage to get on the scoresheet as Madrid fought back from a goal down to win 2-1 on the Balearic Island but Mourinho was nevertheless delighted with the £80 million man's all-round showing.
''I've spent a year and half with Cristiano, he's scored I don't know how many goals, I don't know how many hat-tricks, he's scored decisive goals, the title (Copa del Rey) that we won was with his goal. But for me the game I liked the most, and the one that I have felt happiest and most proud, was the second half against Mallorca,'' Mourinho said.
''Without playing well, he worked like an animal when the team needed it, he recovered possession, worked hard in defence. He was fantastic.
''I've told him that working like that, nobody can touch him. Working like that, he doesn't have to score goals, he doesn't have to be the man of the match.''
Mourinho was speaking ahead of the Copa del Rey quarter-final first leg showdown with Barcelona at the Bernabeu and is set to make changes for the match, but is waiting on the fitness of winger Angel Di Maria.
Mourinho said: ''The feelings aren't the best (about Di Maria), but we're going to wait and see. I'm not going to say what my team is. Firstly because I don't know it, but neither would I say it anyway. The league is the priority for us, that hasn't changed.
''But tomorrow is a big match, it's not a summer tournament or friendly, and I want to play with the best players available. Di Maria will be in the squad.''
He added: ''The best result possible against Barcelona is to get through the tie. The team that is knocked out of the cup has two games less to play in February and they will have an advantage in the fixture list, that's true, but we don't want to be hypocrites, we want to get through and so do Barca. These are special games. It's going to be a great match and we will go out to win.''