Cristiano Ronaldo – Real Madrid’s finest player, top scorer and the first name on their team sheet.
Given all the above, you’d be mistaken for thinking that substituting the man himself would be absolute lunacy. Okay, so maybe in a game where Real are three goals up but in a nail-biting clash with Athletic Bilbao, surely not.
Well, if your name is Zinedine Zidane, then the rules don’t seem to apply and it’s hard to know whether to respect the decision or be utterly baffled by it. As far as Ronaldo is concerned though, he wasn’t best pleased.
Rewind two months and Real Madrid were simply running away with the La Liga title. A 5-0 bludgeoning of Granada had seen them extend their unbeaten run to a historic 39-games and left Barcelona chasing shadows.
In recent weeks though, the competition has intensified. While Sevilla seem to have dropped out of the running, Real’s El Clasico rivals were doing all they could to keep pace.
Therefore, Los Blancos’ trip to Athletic Bilbao looked to carry prominent permutations for the title race. After all, were Zidane’s men to win, they could give themselves a five-point breathing space they hadn’t ascertained for weeks.
Karim Benzema opened the scoring for the away side with a neat finish before the half-hour mark. Ronaldo took the majority of the plaudits though with his immaculate cross proving a world-class assist.
Nevertheless, Real were pegged back in the 65th minute. Veteran striker Aritz Aduriz had Barca fans on their feet when his close range header defied the dive of Keylor Navas.
It wasn’t to be for Bilbao, however. With Ronaldo once again proving the provider, Casemiro put Los Blancos in front from a corner.
While Madrid were admittedly in control and in the lead late on, the game remained in the balance with 10 minutes to play. Despite this, Zidane took the bold decision to take off Ronaldo in favour of Isco.
With the Portuguese having created both of Real’s goals, it certainly raised a few eyebrows. A video of the substitution can be seen below:
Seems pretty tame, right? Well, as captured by the footage of GolTV, Ronaldo was filmed reacting to the substitution with a foul-mouthed comment to his very own manager.
According to Marca and AS alike, the 32-year-old spat: “Why me? F**k off!”
As much as Ronaldo has a point, it must be wondered whether a player of a lower status would receive a backlash for such a comment. After all, he is talking to a manager that won the Champions League within four months of taking his first role as a number one.
He experienced a somewhat successful playing career too. A World Cup, Champions League title and Ballon d’Or speaks for itself.
Nevertheless, Ronaldo was keen to vent his frustration and perhaps luckily for Zidane, his controversial decision didn’t affect the scoreline. Los Blancos held onto a 2-1 win and appear to have recovered their grip on the title race.