Real Madrid coach Rafael Benitez has rejected suggestions Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo have demanded to be played in certain positions.
The Portugal captain has often been fielded at the focal point of Benitez’s attacking system this season, especially in the absence of Karim Benzema, while Bale has been deployed in a central attacking midfield role.
Bale was restored to the left of the attack in the 4-3 win over Shakhtar Donetsk in midweek and set up both goals for Ronaldo, who was given licence to move across the front three, but Benitez insists there has always been an element of freedom to their places in the side.
When asked who had demanded the positional switch, he said: “I never tell Bale to play on the left, Ronaldo on the right. They have freedom to move around the attack, to interchange positions. They’re both very strong.
“I’m the coach of a group of very good players and I have to exploit the characteristics of these players as best I can, so they all work together out on the pitch.”
Reports of a rift with James Rodriguez have surfaced after the Colombia star was dropped following the Clasico defeat to Barcelona, but Benitez has dismissed the claims.
He added: “I’m delighted to have a player of James’ quality in the team. My hope is that he plays to the highest level he can, that he scores lots of goals and that we win lots of titles because of him.
“There’s no problem. There’s a big squad and lots of competition but it’s a great privilege to have a player of his kind of quality.”
The former Liverpool boss is also happy with the efforts of Benzema despite the ongoing allegations of blackmail involving France team-mate Mathieu Valbuena.
“He’s training very well, working hard. When I speak I just ask him to focus on the football matters so I can’t give any more evaluation than that,” Benitez said.
Madrid travel to face Eibar on Sunday looking to bounce back in La Liga from that damaging loss to Barcelona and Benitez has called for fans not to write off their season yet, despite a six-point gap to the current champions at the top of the table.
“We all make mistakes, starting with myself. But we come to decisions too quickly in football sometimes,” he added.
“Eibar are doing very well, they’re on a good run. It’s always difficult to go and play there. But the game against Shakhtar proved that when we’re committed, dominate the ball, the players are clicking, that we can score four goals away from home.
“So this is the message I want to put across. We went 14 games unbeaten, we can go to Eibar and show the fans we have a team who will continue fighting. There are a lot of games to play and the fans should be positive.”