Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has admitted that former star Cristiano Ronaldo is “irreplaceable” at the club, but challenged his team-mates to pick up the baton in the wake of the Portuguese’s exit.
The 33-year-old left Madrid for Juventus in July following a long and illustrious career with Los Blancos, with his departure coinciding with the exit of manager Zinedine Zidane.
While the Champions League holders subsequently struggled to cope, with former Spain boss Julen Lopetegui fired following only a few months at the helm as the Frenchman’s replacement, they have since stabilised since Santiago Solari took the helm.
The former academy coach secured his first trophy this weekend with a 4-1 win over Al Ain in the Club World Cup final on Saturday, to ensure silverware for another season.
Speaking to reporters, goalkeeper Courtois, who joined ahead of the campaign from Premier League giants Chelsea, stated that he believes it is up to the other key forwards to carry the goalscoring burden going forward.
Karim Benzema has managed 11 so far this season, with Welshman Gareth Bale overcoming a rough patch to sit one behind that tally with 10.
“Cristiano Ronaldo is irreplaceable, you cannot forget what he did,” Courtois said.
“But he is not here anymore, so it's time for other players, like Bale did in the semi-finals [of the Club World Cup], to score the goals he [Ronaldo] used to score.
“If we are able to do so, it'll be fine.”
Madrid’s victory over Al Ain assured them a third successive Club World Cup title in a row and means that the trophy will return to Spain for the fifth time in a row.
Solari’s side sit fourth in La Liga, eight points behind the Catalan club, though they do have a game in hand.
They do not play again until 2019 though, when they make the trip to Villarreal on January 3.