Carlo Ancelotti considers Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo to be the greatest forward in the history of football, but suggested he needs a free role to be at his best.
Ronaldo has faced some criticism this season, particularly for his performances in matches away from the Santiago Bernabeu, despite scoring 40 goals in 37 appearances in all competitions for Madrid.
The Portuguese was beaten to the 2015 FIFA Ballon d’Or award by Barcelona great Lionel Messi in January, losing out after winning the accolade for 2013 and 2014 while coached by Ancelotti
The Italian, who will take charge at Bayern Munich next season, says Ronaldo will not produce his best results if used as a central striker, despite receiving praise from Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane for his performance in the position in the 4-0 win over Roma in the Champions League on March 8.
“He is one of the best players ever, the best forward in the history of football. I have never coached a better player than him,” Ancelotti wrote in his column for Sina Sports.
“There is an offensive position that is not the best for Cristiano Ronaldo – the centre-forward role.
“Cristiano did not like playing with his back to goal, he prefers to find space on the flanks and attack the opposition goal.
“Cristiano will always be able to find his place, because he has a special talent for getting around the pitch.
“[Under me] the team played a 4-3-3 with Cristiano starting on the left wing, but we soon found out he needed more freedom to cover more of the pitch and be where the action was.
“We’d often see Cristiano on the two attacking wings and even as a playmaker. Cristiano has to have total freedom so that he is able to believe in what he can do. Giving Cristiano freedom in attack is positive because it makes him even more unpredictable.
“To ensure that his team-mates offer him the best support possible, he has to feel as though he is free at every moment and in any part of the pitch.”