Zinedine Zidane has described Cristiano Ronaldo as the soul of Real Madrid and insists he will not be sold.
The Portugal captain has been rumored to be considering his future at the Santiago Bernabeu despite Zidane having succeeded Rafael Benitez as head coach this week.
Though Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United continue to be linked with the player, the new Madrid boss has claimed he will not sanction the sale of a prized asset.
“He’s more than non-transferable, he’s the soul of the team. I laugh because, while I’m here, he’s not going to go,” he said on Friday.
Zidane has also challenged Madrid’s star attacking trio of Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema to step up their defensive game as he begins his tenure against Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday.
Benitez drew criticism for what some considered a negative tactical approach to some matches, but the former France star insisted his forwards must do more when Madrid is not in possession.
“When we don’t have the ball we all have to work,” he said. “You can’t have three players who don’t defend. That’s the idea I want to get across. The best idea for defending is to have the ball.”
Zidane revealed he has offered private words of encouragement to compatriot Benzema but feels there is not much that needs to be said when it comes to Ronaldo.
“I have said to Benzema in private: ‘my God, you have some quality!'” he said. “Cristiano will play on the wing. I’m going to say few things to Cristiano, I only want him to be happy.
“A player can always improve, be he 20 or 34, and I want to help them improve. It’s difficult to know which player has impressed me the most. We have tremendous quality, I can’t single out just one player. It’s a pleasure for me to see them play.”
Zidane also believes he has held the respect of the dressing-room since his spell as Carlo Ancelotti’s assistant coach during the 2013-14 season and is not harboring any concerns ahead of Saturday’s match.
“I’m convinced that everything will go well,” he added. “Nothing is worrying me at the moment. I’ll sleep very well tonight because training was spectacular. I want the full support of the fans and I want to bring them joy. I want the Bernabeu fans to enjoy their team.
“I’m in charge of the team and I had the respect of the players two years ago under Ancelotti. I spoke with the players from time to time.”