Cristiano Ronaldo may be furious with Juventus manager Maurizio Sarri, but the apparent anger is definitely not mutual.
The Portuguese star was substituted off for the second time this season, and first in Serie A play, as Juventus topped AC Milan 1-0 over the weekend. After just 55 minutes, Sarri made the bold decision to yank Ronaldo, replaced by Paulo Dybala. The substitution was justified as Dybala scored the game’s only goal in the 77th minute.
Ronaldo could be clearly seen muttering under his breath as he came off the field and went straight down the tunnel. Reports came through that the 34-year-old left the stadium before the match concluded, but when Sarri was asked about it after the match, he did not chastise his star forward.
“I don’t know. If it’s true what you say then it’s a problem for him to sort out with his own teammates,” Sarri said in his post-match press conference of Ronaldo’s potential early exit. “If he gets angry at being substituted after all he has won, I’m very happy about that because it means he still has his head fully in the game and he wants to help the team at all costs.”
In fact, Sarri went so far as to praise Ronaldo for playing despite being less than 100% fit. “I have no problem with Cristiano, he should be thanked because he made himself available despite not being in the best condition,” Sarri said. “In the last month he has had discomfort in his knee and this is a little problem for him.”
While that could also be a sly ploy to get Ronaldo withdrawn from international consideration ahead of the break, it’s also a potential olive branch from the manager after doing something he knows hasn’t sit well with his superstar. Still, Ronaldo’s actions could be significant moving forward. It is well-known that he does not combine well with Dybala on the field, and the Argentinian scoring as Ronaldo’s replacement could be a massive blow to his ego. He was substituted off in the 82nd minute against Lokomotiv Moscow in Champions League play midweek, and two consecutive matches without a full 90 minutes is a rare occurrance in Ronaldo’s career.
The win leaves Juventus unbeaten on the season in all competitions, a point clear of Inter Milan atop the Serie A table. They are also leading their Champions League group with 10 points, three ahead of Atletico Madrid in Group D play with a knockout stage place already clinched.