Cristiano Ronaldo has reportedly apologised to his Real Madrid team-mates on WhatsApp for publically criticising their performance levels following the defeat to Atlético Madrid.
The Spanish giants are now 12 points adrift of bitter Catalan foes Barcelona and four behind their victors Atlético after Antoine Griezmann’s winner condemned Zinedine Zidane’s side to a fourth defeat of the campaign.
Speaking after the defeat, Ronaldo is quoted as saying: “If we were all at my level, maybe we would be leaders. I don’t want to disrespect anyone, but when the best players aren’t available it’s harder to win. I like to play with Karim [Benzema], with [Gareth] Bale, with Marcelo.
“I’m not saying the others like Lucas Vazquez, Jesé [Rodriguez] and Mateo Kovacic are not good players. They are very good players, but it’s not the same.”
Madrid are now faced with the indignity of surrendering their La Liga efforts to prioritise elsewhere, chiefly the Champions League, following the round-of-16 second-leg win against Roma. Sergio Ramos, the Real centre-back, has since moved to defend the Portuguese, insisting the meaning what lost along the way.
It has since been reported by El Mundo that Ronaldo told players on the social messaging service: “I was referring to the physical level, not level of play. I am not better than any of my team-mates.” The 31-year-old has repeatedly been linked with a move away from Spain with Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United among his options.