BARCELONA (Reuters) - Carlo Ancelotti never expected Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo to have the strong work ethic he possesses when he first became coach of Real Madrid, the Italian said on Tuesday.
The Portugal winger ended Lionel Messi’s four-year reign as FIFA World Player of the Year on Monday night after a dazzling 2013 with club and country.
“I knew the quality he had as I had seen him play and score goals but what has surprised me to an extent is his professionalism on and off the pitch,” Ancelotti told a news conference ahead of Real’s King’s Cup return tie at Osasuna on Wednesday.
“He is also an example of fair play, he doesn’t protest. Football needs players like Messi, (Franck) Ribery, (Thiago) Silva and (Andrea) Pirlo as they help to improve its image.
“In football today you need talent and effort. Ability and having the genetics to be able to play is not enough as you have to combine it with hard work,” said Ancelotti.
“Ronaldo is a great professional. There have been a lot of examples of players that have had the talent but not succeeded because their effort was not always at the maximum.”
Real go into the second leg of their last-16 King’s Cup clash with Osasuna holding a 2-0 lead.
Ancelotti’s side have sometimes struggled in away games this season and could only draw 2-2 at El Sadar when the two teams met last month in the league.
“We have problems away from home but we have problems at home as well, as do all teams as it isn’t easy to win matches,” said the Real coach.
“We had a 1-0 victory over Espanyol (on Sunday) where we had a lot of chances to score more goals.
“The team is concentrated and motivated for what will be a difficult game. We had problems there before and we are prepared for a tough match as Osasuna will try to win.”
Record signing Gareth Bale was taken off after a mediocre display against Espanyol, Ancelotti putting it down to the injuries the winger has had since arriving at the club in the previous transfer window.
“He wasn’t very involved in the last match but he has integrated well. For a player like Bale it is important for him to be strong and the problem is physical,” explained Ancelotti.
Editing by Tony Jimenez nL3N0KO3N3