Getafe star Pablo Sarabia is qualified more than most when giving his thoughts on the debate as to whether Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo is the best player in the world.
Having faced both men in La Liga on more than one occasion, he also played alongside the Portugal captain having been part of the Real Madrid set-up until 2011.
“For me, Ronaldo is the best player in the world,” the attacking midfielder, who has played for all of Spain’s underaged teams, told Goal. “Yes it is true that Leo is supernatural, because he has pure skill, from another planet.
“But Cristiano is an example of pure willpower. Physically he is incredible because it seems that every day he is striving to be the best. That is an incredible quality, one that has led him to where he is now. Without that characteristic he would not be there, for sure.”
Ronaldo has a chance to right some wrongs on Tuesday, as Real Madrid visit city rivals Atletico Madrid for the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final clash. The last Madrid derby saw the Rojiblancos claim a 4-0 thrashing but ex-Real trainee Sarabia feels his old club should stick to their guns.
“Both teams know each other very well. [Atletico boss] Diego Simeone has a great way of analysing matches, which he has shown several times. Real Madrid have to play their game and try to stop Atletico from blocking their style of play, which is what happened in other games.
“It is a difficult game for both sides. In recent years they have been fighting many battles because both teams are very good and compete for all competitions. I personally would have preferred that they weren’t drawn against each other in the quarter-finals, to give a chance for more Spanish teams to be in the semis. It’s always nice to play against teams from other countries because everyone bets on the Spanish team.”
One of Atletico’s main strengths in recent years has been their ability to cope with the pressure of the big matches. The Madrid derby now counts as one of Europe’s most anticipated clashes, with last season’s Champions League final victory for Real followed by a series of great results for Atletico, including two wins and two draws in La Liga and the Copa del Rey this term.
“There is always pressure and it’s greater at Real Madrid,” the 22-year-old continued. “They’re the best club in the world and you have to notice that. Sometimes you follow a defeat with victory and go from being the worst to being the best.
“This is what happens when you are so big and there is so much demand. A match between Atletico and Real is always great and you have that extra motivation that makes you push yourself.”
Real boss Carlo Ancelotti has come under pressure personally, with a poor run through March seeing the Blancos lose their Liga lead to Barcelona and almost go out of Europe after narrowly beating Schalke 5-4 in the previous round.
Goal understands that Ancelotti will lose his job if he fails to win the Champions League or La Liga this season. One problem with this strategy is that very few options currently exist to replace the Italian. One name which has been mentioned is legendary France midfielder Zinedine Zidane, who currently works as the club’s Castilla coach.
When asked if Zidane was ready for the top job, Sarabia was definitive.
“Of course. He has no experience as a manager but has plenty of experience of organising a team and how to deal with the different people within it. He has all the grounding and knows everything about football. In the end that is what is important.”
Sarabia also had positive words about Ancelotti’s predecessor, controversial Portuguese Jose Mourinho, who had a difficult relationship with the club’s hierarchy, the Spanish media and football federation. Despite all this conflict, the Chelsea boss never upset Sarabia.
“He always behaved very well with me. He is much closer [to players] than everyone thinks, than I thought. Maybe he doesn’t show this side of himself to the press, but face-to-face he is a good person.
“I am very grateful that he gave me my debut and I have only good words for him. He never once treated me badly.”