'One of the great goals you'll see' - the night Juventus rose to applaud Ronaldo

Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane's reaction said it all.

Hand to his head, a look of disbelief on his face at what he had just seen, he turned and bellowed his approval. As a player, the Frenchman scored plenty of stunning goals himself in Turin - but what he had just witnessed from Cristiano Ronaldo was special.


Ronaldo's second goal for the Spanish giants in their 3-0 Champions League quarter-final first-leg victory at Juventus was one of the great strikes - the 33-year-old Portuguese rising almost unnaturally high before acrobatically firing the ball into the corner of the net with an incredible bicycle kick.

Seconds after the ball hit the net, the Juve fans followed Zidane's lead, rising to applaud the man who has, in all likelihood, ended their interest in the Champions League for this season.

BBC Radio 5 live's Pat Nevin, who was at the game, was equally stunned. "When the ball comes across to him you think: 'Oh, you're not going to try an overhead kick.' And then, bang! Oh wow! Just see it, watch it," said the former Scotland winger.

"It is unnatural. People are talking about how Ronaldo is getting a bit older now - but there is nothing wrong with that body if he can do that sort of thing. The timing of it is extraordinary, the imagination to do it is extraordinary.

"A lot of the Juventus fans stayed behind to applaud Ronaldo. To turn around this coliseum to his side - wow. Call it genius if you like.

"It is one of the great goals you will see in football."

Ronaldo's goalscoring stats...

Another view...

'One of the great goals'

Cristiano Ronaldo looked like he could not quite believe what happened

"It is one of those ones where you just say: 'Oh, you're just egging it up a bit, you're exaggerating for pure commentary purposes,'" added Nevin.

"No, absolutely no. That is one of the great goals you will see… I was going to say Champions League football, but, basically, football.

"Talking about how high his foot is, when he goes for the kick there Mattia de Sciglio is jumping up to head the ball and Ronaldo's foot is above his head. It has to be seven and a half feet.

"I would love to be able to tell you how to score a goal like that, but I never have. But if you don't practise that and you try it in a game you can break your back. You need technique to get up and hit it - but you need to be able to land properly as well. He has all this in his mind and computes it in a millisecond. It is special.

"He knows how to time his form, usually when Real are looking to win something, like the Champions League. He also wants to win that Ballon d'Or. Normal humans don't think along those lines on a football pitch, they think about how to win a game. But he is so far ahead."

BBC World Service's John Bennett said: "I don't think he has scored a better goal than that.

"I remember the Porto one [for Manchester United in 2009]. It is how you judge great goals. The technique for that overhead kick makes it the greatest goal Ronaldo has ever scored."

'A Playstation goal' - what they said

Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon: "Ronaldo is an extraordinary champion. Together with Lionel Messi, he is the only one that punctuates his team's most important victories, and is to be compared to [Diego] Maradona and Pele."

Juve defender Andrea Barzagli: "Cristiano made up the second goal. It's a Playstation goal. When you come up against one of the best in the world like Ronaldo, you need to be perfect. If you give him any space, he'll punish you. He scored a goal that will go down in history - and unfortunately it was against us."

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri: "I don't know if Cristiano's goal is the best in the history of football, but it's certainly an extraordinary goal. You can only congratulate him for what he's doing at present."

Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane: "Cristiano Ronaldo is different. He's a different player to everyone else and he always has this desire to do something extraordinary in the Champions League. He never rests on his laurels.

"His overhead kick was remarkable, yet he missed two much easier chances. That's football."

'Ronaldo can now leave Earth' - social media reaction

"Come on team," Cristiano Ronaldo modestly tweeted
Peter Crouch scored a famous bicycle kick of his own for Liverpool against Galatasaray...
BBC Match of the Day presenter and former England captain Gary Lineker was impressed
Another former England striker, Michael Owen, was also stunned
"Ronaldo can now leave Earth and play with Martians. He has done everything here," said former Real defender Alvaro Arbeloa

What you said on #bbcfootball...

Ed: I've always said Ronaldo's the best ever. He can score any type of goal and he'd arguably be the top scorer in every major league.

Josh: Is there anything Cristiano Ronaldo can't do? Not content with just being a goal machine he's gone and scored arguably the greatest goal in the history of the Champions League too... Wow, I have actually ran out of superlatives to describe this man!!!

Simon: Yeah, Ronaldo is good, but has he ever scored on a rainy night in Sto- oh, he actually has...

Fabian: Dear ladies and gentlemen, if you ever had doubts that Ronaldo wasn't the best player ever; please think again! WHAT A PLAYER!

'My goal was better...'

His manager may have been impressed by Ronaldo's goal, but we will leave the final say to Zidane, who also scored one of the great Champions League goals - a magnificent volley in the 2002 final for Real against Bayer Leverkusen.

Which goal was better he was asked...

"Oh mine! Definitely mine."

Source: BBC NEWS

Determination: 11 Footballers Rejected By Clubs When They Were Kids

Football can be a cruel mistress but for these players, things probably turned out alright in the end.

Here's 11 stars whose careers almost took a different path...

11. Luke Shaw - Chelsea

Despite not quite making the desired impact at Manchester United considering his record-breaking transfer back in 2014, things could have been very different for Luke Shaw.

The left-back almost joined Chelsea after playing with their development academy, but he wasn't offered a place and ended up joining Southampton as a eight-year-old.

The boyhood Blues fan almost found himself plying his trade at Stamford Bridge before joining the Red Devils, but it's clearly just not meant to be...

10. Mario Balotelli - Barcelona

Could you picture Mario Balotelli in the famous Catalan blue and red? It's an image that's almost hard to even imagine, but the reality was oh so real. As a 16-year-old, Mario had a trial with the Spanish giants and things went better than expected.

Head of the youth team Jose Ramon Alexanko later said: "Mario played an exceptional game, he scored five goals. He was good enough and we could have signed him." It never came to fruition with his attitude reportedly scuppering a deal. Imagine our surprise...

9. Diego Costa - Corinthians, Palmeiras and Santos

Before establishing himself as one of the most fearsome (and aggressive) strikers in world football, Diego Costa almost didn't make it in the game. In Brazil, the Atletico Madrid striker played on the streets and didn't receive any kind of formal coaching until the age of 15, at which point he was offered to a host of clubs in his homeland.

He was rejected by all of them, including Corinthians, Palmeiras and Santos before heading to Europe where he joined Braga and kick started his career before joining Atletico.

8. Rashford - Man City

Man City are a daunting enough proposition for opponents these days without Marcus Rashford, so can you imagine if the Citizens had the United whizzkid in their ranks? It was almost the case as the Mancunian had a trial with the blue side of the city at the age of nine.

City were just a stone's throw away from his home but they deemed him too small and weak to make it in the game. How wrong they were...

7. Harry Kane - Arsenal

Everyone by now has seen the pictures of a young Harry Kane donning the red and white of Tottenham's arch-rivals Arsenal (and if you haven't, time to come out from under the rock you've been living under). Thankfully for Spurs fans, that stage of his life is long gone but he almost wasn't one of their own.

The English goal-getter spent a year at the Highbury academy before being released for being too small and slow with Arsene Wenger admitting in 2015 that he was disappointed the Gunners had allowed him to slip through their hands. We're not bloody surprised...

6. Ronaldinho - St Mirren

You're not reading that wrong at all. That does indeed say that the one time Ballon d'Or winner did in fact nearly join Scottish minnows St Mirren. But how? Back in 2001, the Brazilian maestro had a deal already agreed for him to move to Paris Saint-Germain from Gremio in the summer, but was looking for a short-term move to Europe before that deal came into place so that he could acclimatise.

Then-manager Tom Hendrie claimed that everything was in place for the move, and that it would've gone ahead if it wasn't for a legal problem with Gremio putting the move off at the last minute.

5. Javier Zanetti - Independiente

A five-time Serie A winner, a Champions League title, a UEFA Cup winner's medal, an Olympic silver medal and his shirt number retired by Inter Milan - it's fair to say that Javier Zanetti won't be forgotten in the Italian capital anytime soon.

Argentinian side Independiente didn't quite think he would be any good, saying he didn't have the physique to make it in the game. Their loss was certainly Inter's gain...

4. Yaya Toure - Arsenal

Ah Arsenal, another gem slipped through the cracks. This time Yaya Toure, who actually did play for the Gunners before a move failed to materialise. As a 20-year-old back in 2003, Toure played a pre-season friendly for the club against Barnet, but failed to impress as a lanky striker with Wenger calling him 'completely average'.

Despite his frail start, the club did still want to snap him up but cited work permit and passport issues as a factor which saw him go down a different career path via Barcelona and Manchester. We're sure he's not complaining...

3. Ronaldo - Flamengo

When people talk about the best strikers to ever play the game, the likes of Pele, Emile Heskey and this man come up. Ronaldo, 'O Fenômeno', was one of the most fearsome hitmen on the planet and will forever be remembered accordingly, but his favourite team, Flamengo, weren't such big fans.

The Brazilian tried to get signed by his childhood team, but they turned him down. He joined Cruzeiro instead, hit 44 goals in 47 games for them, moved to PSV Eindhoven at 17 and became the legend he was always destined to be.

2. Zinedine Zidane - Blackburn Rovers

Ah Jack Walker, what a sweet and naive man you'll be remembered as. He'll always be remembered as the man who brought Blackburn Rovers a Premier League title, but he'll never be forgotten for uttering the words:  "Why do you want to sign Zidane when we have Tim Sherwood?"

There's no comparing the two careers of arguably the best midfielder to ever grace a football pitch and Tim Sherwood, a man more famous for wearing gilets than kicking a ball. Rovers fans can only sit back and what imagine could have been with the Frenchman in the middle of their midfield. Dreaming...

1. Lionel Messi - Newell's and River Plate

Back when football wasn't almost a competition between two men competing to be the best, a little known Argentinian called Lionel Messi was struggling to make it as a footballer. A deficiency which stunted his growth caused Newell's Old Boys, a club Messi actually was a part of, to decide against investing in the youngster, not willing to pay the $1000 per-month it would cost to provide him with growth hormones.

Messi was scouted by River Plate, but they too weren't willing to invest in the costly medication, with Barcelona swooping and splashing the cash freely. It's safe to say it paid off...

Source: 90Min.com

Real Madrid will sink or swim with Zinedine Zidane's rotation policy

There were five changes to Real Madrid's starting lineup for the match against Levante. The Bernabeu was treated to seven for the visit of APOEL. There were four for Alaves, and five for Tottenham.

Zinedine Zidane has positioned himself as a staunch advocate of squad rotation so far in his fledgling managerial career. Since taking the job in January 2016, the French coach has generally been credited with hauling Real Madrid out from the stodginess of Rafael Benitez's tenure. It is ironic, therefore, that Benitez is one of the most important proponents of the approach that Zidane has used to deliver an unprecedented four titles in 2016-17: the rotation policy.

Benitez made an average of 3.69 changes per game to his Valencia team in 2001-02, as Los Che rotated their way to the La Liga title. According to Benitez, the chop-and-change approach was fundamental to Valencia's winning the league for the first time in 31 years.

"In January [2002] we were eight points behind Real Madrid and we finished six or seven points ahead. Why? Because we were fresh at the end of the season," Benitez explained in his 2012 book "Champions League Dreams".

Benitez's rotation policy was treated with suspicion in England after he joined Liverpool in 2004. Sceptics say that it breeds instability and prevents players forming intuitive connections on the pitch. Traditionalists point to Ron Saunders' Aston Villa side of 1980-81, which won the English First Division with 14 players. Or to Bill Shankly's Liverpool, which achieved the same feat in 1965-66.

But the physical demands placed on modern players, coupled with the number of matches that elite clubs play, render such comparisons irrelevant. Football is not axiomatic and managers cannot rely on received wisdom in an environment that constantly develops around them. Rotation is a form of evolution, and Benitez and Zidane have both embraced that change rather than resisting it.

Paco de Miguel -- a fitness coach who has worked with Benitez at various clubs -- explains the logic of squad rotation in three points. Firstly, rotation prevents players from increasing their risk of injury by playing an excessive number of matches. Secondly, physical performance decreases when players play two or three matches in a week. Thirdly, it creates competition within the squad.

The final point is particularly applicable to Real Madrid's title win in 2016-17. Rotation created an atmosphere whereby every player -- with the possible exception of poor Fabio Coentrao -- knew that they would play, that they could contribute, and that the glory was partly due to them.

Zidane used the full depth of his squad in the spring of 2017, allowing Madrid to compete for both La Liga and the Champions League. Throughout the season, 20 players played 1,000 minutes or more in La Liga, and back-up goalkeeper Kiko Casilla was only 10 minutes away from that figure too.

Crucially, Madrid were able to rotate the starting lineup against middling teams without sacrificing momentum. Barcelona slipped up against Alaves, Celta Vigo, Deportivo La Coruna and Malaga, while Real Madrid brushed them aside.

Rotation has become normal, particularly for clubs that play up to 60 matches in a season due to European and domestic commitments. It would be misleading to present Benitez and Zidane as its only disciples. Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United won the Premier League and the Champions League in 2007-08 without naming the same lineup in consecutive matches. Pep Guardiola deployed a similar approach with his all-conquering Barcelona side of 2008-09.

But Zidane further developed the method. He took Benitez's template and fed it a diet of steak and steroids. The 45-year-old rotated his squad to the extent that two distinct, but ostensibly equal teams emerged: Real Madrid "A", and Real Madrid "B", as the Spanish media dubbed them. It was unprecedented.

"It's harder to beat Real Madrid 'B' than Real Madrid 'A'," rued Deportivo manager Pepe Mel, after Madrid romped to a 6-2 victory at Riazor, having made nine changes to the team that lost to Barcelona a few days earlier.

Zidane has continued to rotate his squad this season, but the football has been disjointed. The defeat to Real Betis and the draw with Levante demonstrate that. Even victories at Alaves and Getafe have been met with the collective diagnosis that "something is not quite clicking".

That is natural. James Rodriguez, Alvaro Morata, and to a lesser extent Danilo, were essential to the viability of Real Madrid "B" last season. They have all left the club, and their replacements are weaker. The arrival of Theo Hernandez provides support in a previously-vulnerable area of the pitch, but the Real Madrid squad does not boast the same depth that it did just six months ago. Cristiano Ronaldo's suspension, and injuries to Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale, Dani Carvajal, and Marcelo have exacerbated the issue. Ultimately, the success of a rotation policy is dependent on the quality of the squad that it is applied to.

"I'm not going to change. ... I believe in what I'm doing," Zidane has stated, and reiterated.

Judgement will arrive at the end of the season, and it will probably be extreme. Fans and sections of the media will herald Zidane as a genius and identify rotation as his defining principle if Madrid recover from their current deficit to retain La Liga. On the flip side, rotation will be deemed a catastrophic misjudgement if they fall short. But in truth, Zidane has little choice. Rotation is a necessary product of Real Madrid's unquenchable thirst for success on all fronts.

Source: http://www.espnfc.com/club/real-madrid/86/blog/post/3233713/real-madrid-will-sink-or-swim-with-zinedine-zidanes-rotation-policy

Zidane bemoans Morata’s move to Chelsea as Real Madrid struggle

Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane has said he did not want Alvaro Morata to leave for Chelsea this summer, adding that his side are struggling without a recognised number nine.

Having failed to beat Valencia prior to the international break, Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane knew his side had to beat Levante on Saturday to avoid a gap between themselves and bitter rivals Barcelona.

However, a poor start to the game against the Valencian based side saw Ivi open the scoring, spinning past Dani Carvajal before slotting past Keylor Navas.

The game was largely dominated by Madrid but with very few chances and Zidane’s early misery was compounded further as Karim Benzema was forced off with injury, being replaced by Welsh winger Gareth Bale.

Madrid did level through the lively Lucas Vazquez, who tapped home following Sergio Ramos’ saved effort from Raul Fernandez.

One added bonus for Zidane is the return of Cristiano Ronaldo, who will feature in the Champions League this week.

But, the French boss conceded his side were missing options in attack.

“Looking at our squad, we may be missing a number nine,” Zidane told reporters on Tuesday.

“I would have liked Morata to stay but he wanted to play more first-team football elsewhere, which was his decision. We tried to get in another player, last year we had Morata and Mariano and now only Mayoral is in the squad.

“Mayoral was not in the squad against Levante but that was my decision and he will be a part of our group on Wednesday – he is hungry. We’re happy to have Ronaldo back – physically he is very fit and mentally with all that has happened, with all the talk, he is in a good place.”

Source: La Liga News

Manchester United will only pay £35m for Rodriguez

Manchester United have been linked with a move for the Real Madrid star all summer.

The Red Devils are aiming to rebuild after a goal-shy season under Jose Mourinho last term.

Rodriguez looks increasingly likely to leave Real after making just 32 appearances under Zinedine Zidane as the club won La Liga and the Champions League.

The Colombia international joined the Spanish giants from Monaco in 2014 after his exploits at the World Cup in Brazil, where he finished as the tournament's top scorer.

But, though he was an ever-present under Carlo Ancelotti, his Real Madrid move has backfired and a parting of ways now consequently looks inevitable.

Reports in Spain last month suggested Mourinho wants Rodriguez, and his team-mate Alvaro Morata, to bring some much-needed excitement back to Old Trafford.

United managed to find the net just 54 times from 38 Premier League games - with a staggering 19 of those belonging to Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

And they are still striding for the gung-ho football that made them so entertaining under Sir Alex Ferguson, with David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Mourinho all failing to bring it back.

But Don Balon say United's failure to meet Real's asking price for Rodriguez is holding up a potential transfer.

It is said the Red Devils are willing to pay just £35million for him, while Madrid want something in the region of £55m.

As a result, the player's agent Jorge Mendes will now supposedly hold talks with United in order to convince them to cough up.

Real are in a hurry as they want to seal a deal for Real Betis' Dani Ceballos but, if they fail to get rid of Rodriguez, he could end up at Barcelona instead.

Source: Daily Express