Valverde refutes talk of Ronaldo decline

Athletic Bilbao head coach Ernesto Valverde played down talk of Cristiano Ronaldo’s decline ahead of his side’s clash against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu on Saturday.

By Ronaldo’s imperious standards, the goals have somewhat dried up for him this season, but he has still contributed 19 goals and seven assists in just 23 La Liga matches.

It was suggested to Valverde in the pre-match press conference that the Portuguese winger no longer had the same impact on games he once did, but the Bilbao coach was having none of it.

“Cristiano’s decline? What is there to say? We play him, and you try not to mention anything so you don’t make him angry,” he told reporters.

“He could score three or four goals in every game. It’s normal the season has low points, he’s always hungry to score…I don’t see many ups and downs.

“Those who are closer can have another opinion but when we face him there’s always danger in every play.”

Real have returned to form since replacing Rafael Benitez with Zinedine Zidane as head coach, but Valverde insisted it is too early to tell how much of an impact the retired France international has had.

“I don’t see big differences between one coach and another, not this soon. I just see Madrid. Over time you’ll see a little of each Coach, because they’ve made changes.

“Their effectiveness at home is very important. They’ve scored 45 goals in their ground, an average of almost four per game, so we have to be very attentive.”

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