Rafa Benitez has hailed Cristiano Ronaldo as Real Madrid’s Pau Gasol following the basketballer’s EuroBasket exploits for Spain on Thursday.
The 35-year-old fired La Roja into Sunday’s final, having netted half of La Roja’s 80 points against France, and the Coach believes his No 7 has what it takes to produce a similar impact on Los Blancos’ fortunes this season.
“Today we mixed things up a little. Nothing has yet been decided [regarding the XI for Granada],” he said at a Press conference prior to Madrid’s visit of Granada in La Liga on Saturday.
“It’s part of our strength that we all feel involved and I can change the team or keep the same system. It all depends on the players I have available.
“I understand [the theory that there’s more balance without Gareth Bale] in terms of tactical analysis, but not from a results perspective as we’re scoring and not conceding.
“It’s true that a different system can be a good thing. In fact, we’ve played some games when we’ve sacrificed a wide player and moved Cristiano [Ronaldo] into the middle.
“The team are scoring goals and balanced, but you can always hope for further improvement and, above all, the players absorbing your ideas, but it takes a while.
“[On asking Wales not to call up Bale], it’s hypothetical as [Bale has suffered] no serious injury and our players have recovered quite well from such injuries in the past.
“I could call the Wales Coach [Chris Coleman], but they have their interests and we have ours.
“[Raphael Varane] trained today, but our main objective is to win the game against Granada.
“We must decide on whether to make a change [in defence]. I have a balanced squad which can tackle any match.
“I spoke to [Ronaldo] as I do every day and discussed tactical issues with him. The forwards know they are free to move around, as long as they keep balanced.
“I know Mateo [Kovacic] well from Italian football. He’s a quality player, who connects with the attackers, but all our midfielders have sufficient quality.
“I want to congratulate all [of Spain’s basketball players] and hopefully they can win the [Eurobasket] final.
“Cristiano [Ronaldo] is our Pau Gasol. He’s our most important player and we want him to help the team win trophies. Gasol makes a difference and that's what Cristiano can do for us.
“[My squad] have a sensational attitude, and one of the things that most caught my eye was the players’ competitive edge. They want to win everything in their careers, even the training matches.”