Cristiano Ronaldo is not “physically at his best right now”, admits Juventus boss Maurizio Sarri.
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner has been slated for his involvement in Juve’s penalty shoot-out defeat to Napoli in the Coppa Italia final last week, with one Italian newspaper describing him as “the worst player on the pitch”.
Ronaldo had scored 25 goals in 34 appearances for the Italian giants before the season was paused due to the coronavirus crisis.
He has been almost invisible in his two matches since the restart – goalless draws against AC Milan as well as Napoli – and lost a second successive cup final for the first time in his dazzling career.
However, former Chelsea manager Sarri said he had spoken personally to Ronaldo and was confident the 35-year-old would quickly return to form after regaining his match fitness.
Sarri told reporters in Italy: “I spoke to Cristiano again yesterday, alone and for a long time. He mustn’t lose his confidence.
“I hope that from tomorrow the fantastic player of old will come back. It’s just that he’s not physically at his best right now.”
Serie A pundits have been exploring whether Ronaldo could move permanently into a more central role after doing so against Milan – but the man nicknamed ‘CR7’ is keen to stay on the wing.
Meanwhile, Sarri himself has come under pressure since the sudden death defeat in Rome, amid accusations he has fallen out with players such as Ronaldo and Miralem Pjanic.
The 61-year-old has dismissed those rumours as “the biggest hoax of the season”.
He has two years left on his contract and still has the confidence of the board to bring more attacking football to Turin and ensure Juve progress in the Champions League.
But Sarri still has a battle on his hands to retain the Serie A title, with Lazio within a point of leaders Juve after 26 of 38 rounds.