Benitez plays down talk of Ronaldo rift
Real Madrid coach Rafael Benitez responded to reports of a falling out with Cristiano Ronaldo by praising the striker's competitive spirit and insisted Sergio Ramos will not be leaving on Thursday.
A training ground incident in which Ronaldo responded angrily to Benitez disallowing one of his goals has been seized upon by the Spanish media and cited as an example of tension between the new head coach and the club's most important player during their pre-season tour of Australia.
Speaking at a media conference prior to the International Champions Cup match against Manchester City on Friday, the former Liverpool and Napoli boss did not dismiss the subject out of hand, choosing instead to hail the Portugal captain's will to win.
"I have now had the opportunity to spend a few days with him, he is competitive, he likes to win and for that reason he is the best in the world, I want all my players to play like this," Benitez said.
"Seeing Ronaldo up close training, I can see that's he doing very well."
Meanwhile, Real centre-back Sergio Ramos, who is captaining the team early in Benitez's tenure, continues to be linked with a move to Manchester United.
Pressed on whether or not the Spain international will start the new Liga season with Real, the head coach said: "Yes, for me, 100 per cent.
"Ramos is our player, he's a key player for us, he's our captain. I would like to see him [at the club] at the beginning of the season, because he's a key player for us.
"I insist that it is clear for me and the club, Sergio will be here. Football is a curious world, but Ramos will be staying."
As for the comments made by United coach Louis van Gaal in the United States, hinting that the transfer is going ahead, Benitez added: "I have a lot of respect for Van Gaal, but Sergio will be staying with us."
For his part, midfielder Luka Modric strongly expressed his desire to see Ramos remain with the 2013-14 Champions League winners.
"Well, I hope that he stays," the former Tottenham Hotspur man said.
"He's a very important part of the team. He's our captain and our leader, both on and off the pitch. He's happy where he is. He's our captain and our leader and he's staying where he is."