Zidane lavishes praise on Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo

Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images
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YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane wouldn’t be surprised if Cristiano Ronaldo keeps winning awards.

Ronaldo earned his fourth Ballon d’Or prize on Monday, and is now targeting a third title at the Club World Cup.

“It is very rare that one player wins so many awards,” Zidane said Wednesday. “His fourth Ballon d’Or is a great achievement. It is not something you can easily achieve. Maybe he deserves a fifth Ballon d’Or.”

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Another trophy would move Ronaldo level with Lionel Messi.

Madrid is in Japan to face Mexican side Club America in the Club World Cup semifinals on Thursday. The team, currently in first place in the Spanish league, is favored to win yet another title.

MADRID, SPAIN - DECEMBER 10: Sergio Ramos of Real Madrid celebrates after Real beat RC Deportivo La Coruna 3-2 in the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and RC Deportivo La Coruna at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on December 10, 2016 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Ramos will not play against Club America (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images).

Madrid captain Sergio Ramos will miss the match, but Zidane is hopeful he will be fit to return if Madrid makes the final.

“He is not in a serious condition but he is a little bit tired after a long journey and I don’t want to put him under any physical pressure,” Zidane said.

Club America came from a goal down to beat South Korean side Jeonbuk Hyundai 2-1 in Sunday’s quarterfinals. The Mexican side is marking its centenary this year, and Zidane is sure they are highly motivated.

“Some clubs only have one chance in a lifetime to play against Real Madrid and I think it is a very good opportunity for them,” the former France great said.

Madrid hasn’t lost in any competition since April 6, a run which has stretched to a club record 35 games.

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Zidane, however, doesn’t feel that adds any extra pressure to him or his players.

“Real Madrid is always under pressure because we must win, people expect us to win,” Zidane said. “Winning 50 or 40 games, there is not much difference.”

The winner of Thursday’s match will face either Atletico Nacional or Kashima Antlers in Sunday’s final in Yokohama.

Madrid still has a chance to claim an unprecedented quadruple. It leads the Spanish league by six points and is also into the last 16 of the Champions League and Copa del Rey.

European sides have dominated the Club World Cup in recent years, winning eight of the past nine editions.