Cristiano Ronaldo was not “comfortable” when asked to play as a striker by Real Madrid, says Paul Clement, but Carlo Ancelotti helped to tweak his game and play to his strengths.
The Portuguese superstar had already enjoyed four goal-laden seasons at the Santiago Bernabeu when an Italian coach arrived in 2013.
Ancelotti was eager to oversee a slight positional tweak in the Spanish capital, with Ronaldo asked to move inside from a position on the flanks which required him to do more defensive work.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner quickly pointed out, though, that a central role was not for him and Real instead changed their tactical approach in order to free up a talismanic presence.
Clement told Stadium Astro of how they and Ronaldo got to that point: “Carlo had an idea that Cristiano would play as a striker, either with [Karim[ Benzema or Benzema would come into the game.
“He wanted to free him up more so he could become more of a goalscorer and have less responsibility because when you play wide you have to track back.
“He started it off like that in the pre-season, I'm not sure if it actually went into the season but certainly the early part of when we were there, but he said to Carlo: ‘I'm not comfortable of playing in that position because my back is to goal and that's not my strength’.
“He said: ‘I prefer coming in from the left, running at defenders and shooting or providing crosses’. And a great sign of Carlo's management is that he didn't say: ‘You're going to play as a striker and you're going to do great there, Cristiano you need to be comfortable’.
“So he played him on the left and then what he did was organise the team to allow Ronaldo to use his offensive skills so he wouldn't have to track back on the left side.
“We played 4-3-3 and on the left side of midfield, he played Angel di Maria, who could run and run and run.
“We knew that if Cristiano went forward that Angel would have the ability to come across to provide cover and help Marcelo, who was at left-back.
“We knew what he liked and what he was good at and Carlo gave him the opportunity to go and do that.”
Ronaldo netted 102 goals across two seasons under Ancelotti, including a personal best return of 61 in the 2014-15 campaign.
In total, he netted 450 times in 438 appearances for Real but left the Liga giants in the summer of 2018 to take on a new challenge with Serie A champions Juventus.