Cristiano Ronaldo is the best player in the world – Zidane

The forward has been criticised for his form this season, but his coach is adamant he remains the game’s finest player
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane says Cristiano Ronaldo is the best player in the world ahead of Lionel Messi.

Ronaldo has been criticised for his form so far this season amid suggestions he is now past his best and then had to watch Messi win the Ballon d’Or in January.

But the 31-year-old has received the backing of his coach, who believes the individual rivalry between the pair is healthy.

“Cristiano Ronaldo is the best,” Zidane told Mexican outlet Record. “Messi is his rival and the rivalry is good for football.”

Zidane has enjoyed a good start to life in charge of Madrid after replacing Benitez as Madrid boss at the start of January.

The Frenchman resisted spending in the January transfer window despite the possibility of a ban on buying players looming over the club, but he is convinced he has enough quality in the squad to compete.

“I have a sensational group, I am very happy with the players and what they are doing,” Zidane added.

“80% to 90% of the game is in the mental strength. If you are focused, it is the most important thing.

“Playing for Real Madrid is a dream, we are lucky to be here.”

Stoichkov backs ‘smart guy’ Neymar to stay at Barcelona

The Bulgarian does not believe Barca’s No.11 will follow in the footsteps of Luis Figo by leaving Camp Nou to join Real Madrid

Former Barcelona player Hristo Stoichkov believes Neymar will “not be another Judas” in choosing to leave Camp Nou for Real Madrid.

The Brazil captain is under contract until 2018 but has been linked with what would be a sensational switch to Barcelona’s fierce domestic rivals.

Luis Figo infamously left Barca for Madrid in 2000, but Stoichkov does not expect Neymar to follow in the footsteps of the Portuguese by moving to the Spanish capital.

And the Bulgarian, who won the Ballon d’Or in 1994, has also backed the ex-Santos man to follow in his footsteps and earn individual accolades at Camp Nou.

“I think Neymar will win a Ballon d’Or with the Barca shirt, he will not be another Judas,” he said.

“He’s a smart guy, knows this is his team.”

Carragher proud of Liverpool ticket-price U-turn

The Reds’ owners, the Fenway Sports Group, faced a major backlash over plans to hike ticket prices and the former defender has now lauded their decision to back down
Jamie Carragher says he is proud of Liverpool again after the club’s owners backed down from their plans to increase matchday and season ticket prices.

Carragher joined fans who staged a 77th minute walkout during the Reds’ 2-2 draw with Sunderland on Saturday in protest at the planned hike in prices, which would have seen the most expensive matchday ticket rise from £59 to £77.

After reviewing their plans, owners Fenway Sports Group ditched the planned increases on Wednesday, instead freezing the prices and scrapping game categorisation.

“When I heard that Liverpool’s owners had taken the decision to freeze ticket prices for the next two seasons, as well as apologising for the idea of wanting to sell seats for £77, I felt proud of my club once again,” Carragher wrote in his Daily Mail column.
“The supporters started something big on Saturday when walking out of Anfield in the 77th minute and things snowballed to such an extent that Fenway Sports Group (FSG) realised they had to make urgent corrections.

“It wasn’t nice to see but they were standing up for fans across the country, not just themselves. Nobody wants to see stadiums emptying on a regular basis and hopefully that prospect has now finished.

“Rarely in life do you find people who will admit they have got something wrong, so it was bold of FSG to hold their hands up and apologise.

“The open letter they issued last night was something they did get right and the decision to go for a two-year price [freeze] makes a statement.

“The easy thing would have been to leave things as they are for 12 months before nudging prices up again. The fact that they have not shows FSG appreciated what was at stake.”

Maybe Scholes should be more positive about Man Utd – Van Gaal

The Dutch manager feels the former midfielder’s comments create a “negative atmosphere” but says he will not ask Ryan Giggs to speak to him about them

Louis van Gaal has suggested Paul Scholes should be more positive on his view of Manchester United, but says he will not ask Ryan Giggs to speak to him about his comments.

United went on an eight game winless streak earlier in the season and were heavily criticised by fans and media, with Scholes blasting Van Gaal and his squad for playing “boring” football.

The Old Trafford side’s form has picked up in recent weeks, but the coach continues to attract negative attention with speculation over his future continuing to grow.

Van Gaal says he would not put his assistant, Giggs, in an awkward position by asking him to speak to his former team-mate, insisting he is used to criticism, but feels Scholes’ comments create a “negative atmosphere” at the club.

“I don’t think that I have to give Ryan stress in his friendship with Scholes,” he told the Independent. “I have managed all of my career, so it would not be good or honest of me to ask Ryan to say something.

“What Scholes is thinking, he has to think it. Every human being can give his opinion. I don’t bother about that, I think it is good.

“But my problem is when you create an atmosphere, a very negative atmosphere for somebody, so maybe he should be more positive.”

United, who take on Sunderland on Saturday, are currently fifth in the table – six points behind fourth-placed Manchester City and a further six behind league leaders Leicester City.