Reports of a frosty relationship between Cristiano Ronaldo and Maurizio Sarri at Juventus have been overblown, according to Italy manager Roberto Mancini.
Ronaldo made little attempt to hide his displeasure at being substituted by Sarri in both of the Serie A champions’ last two games, an experience the 34-year-old isn’t used to.
However, Sarri’s calls were vindicated in both matches as his side went onto secure two late wins with two goals scored by substitutes. Most recently, they beat AC Milan thanks to an effort from Paulo Dybala, the player who replaced Ronaldo in both games.
"It is always difficult to replace a big player,” Mancini told Rai Sport.
“Because a player with Ronaldo's qualities can always be expected to make a difference at any time during a game.
"It probably came after a week with some physical problems and Sarri considered it correct to take Ronaldo off. These are things that happen. I don't see anything serious, this can happen between players and coaches."
Ronaldo has six goals in 14 appearances in all competitions for Juventus this season, and hasn’t scored in any of his last three outings for the club.
However, he responded in typical style with a hat-trick for Portugal on Thursday night, taking his international tally to a remarkable 98 goals – showing no signs of the fitness issues Sarri alluded to when explaining his decisions.
Ronaldo could soon be joined in Serie A by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, with reports suggesting the Swede is set to rejoin former side AC Milan after leaving LA Galaxy on a free transfer.
Mancini managed Ibrahimovic at city rivals Inter, and believes he would still make an impact on Serie A at the age of 38.
"Zlatan has been one of the greatest strikers in the world,” he added.
“He's scored so many goals. He's a physically sensational player. Despite his age, he can still do very well in Serie A.
"I don't think the pace of Serie A has changed in the last 50 years, our league could never be like the Premier League, where the referee whistles less and the games are very fast."