Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo has said that the key to success last season for Los Blancos was the arrival of Zinedine Zidane as manager.
The Real Madrid Madrid forward, along with teammate Gareth Bale and Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann make up three final nominees for UEFA’s Best Player in Europe award on Thursday at the Champions League group stage draw in Monaco.
Ronaldo’s case for deserving the honour is backed by Real Madrid’s Champions League victory and Portugal’s Euro 2016 win.
He said the club season turned around once Zidane came on board midway through this past season.
“It was a year that had a bit of everything. We didn’t make a good start, or rather we didn’t start the way we wanted to, but we ended it well — that was the key to the season,” he told World Soccer Magazine. “I think that with [Zinedine] Zidane’s arrival, many aspects of the team improved.”
Ronaldo captained Portugal to glory at Euro 2016, when he was taken off injured during the final, and scored the winning shootout penalty for Real Madrid as they beat Atletico Madrid to win the Champions League for an 11th time.
His Bernabeu colleague Bale also shone in France, where his three goals helped unfancied Wales to reach the last four, and struck in the Champions League shootout.
“It’s a sign of a great season on an individual level and on a collective level too, with Real Madrid having won the Champions League, and obviously it’s a beautiful moment in my career and I’m happy,” he said.
The 31-year-old, who is currently sidelined with a knee injury, scored 51 goals in all competitions and is a strong candidate to win the 2016 Ballon d’Or.
He said he was honoured to be under consideration for the UEFA Best Player award, which he won for the 2013-14 season.
“I see it as a privilege. Since the prize has been around I’ve almost always been in the mix. I think there have been four editions of the prize and I’ve been nominated for three, if I remember correctly, so it’s an honour,” he said.
“We were able to win the Champions League, on a personal level I was the top scorer in the Champions League en route to us winning it, so it was possibly one of the best years of my career.
“In terms of trophies it was possibly the best year of my career. The same goes both collectively and individually, because I was the top scorer in the Champions League and had a good European Championship, and we were able to win the two most important trophies.
He said that while he would like to win the individual award, nothing can top what his teams have already accomplished.
“It would be something very important for me. It’s obviously an individual trophy. The most important thing was that we won trophies as a team.”