MADRID – Radomir Antic of Serbia, the former coach of Spain’s top teams Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona, has told EFE in an exclusive interview that Cristiano Ronaldo was feeling relaxed after he joined Juventus last summer.
Ronaldo moved from Real Madrid after playing for the club for nine years.
“I see him enjoying himself because he takes more part in the play, also he is given freedom to move, making the most of his speed through spaces,” Antic said of the Portugal superstar. “He has got over his nervousness, becoming the reference point for Juventus’ attack.”
Antic said Ronaldo was playing with Juve’s Croatia forward Mario Mandzukic in harmony, adding that the Croatian managed to play in attacking positions, forging a creative link with the famed striker.
“Juventus has recovered all its players,” Antic said. “I do not like to talk about favorites or give percentages. The real fact is that Juve comes in better form.”
Antic said Italy’s Juventus would reach the first leg of the UEFA Champions League last-16 tie in better form than host Atletico.
Atleti is set to play Juventus on Wednesday at the Spanish side’s home pitch, the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid.
Antic, 70, led Atletico Madrid in three different tenures, the most successful of which was when he led the team to win the 1995-96 seasons of La Liga and the Copa del Rey.
When asked why he seemed pessimistic regarding Atletico’s chances in the Champions League tie with Juve, Antic said he was not pessimistic but instead analyzing the current shape of both teams.
“Atletico has been suffering from injuries during the whole season,” Antic said. “I believe they have had 35 injuries in the season, which is a lot.”
The Serbian coach added that Atletico had managed to “defeat Rayo on Saturday, but the team did not play well.”
As for the Atleti, Antic said that Spain striker Diego Costa was an important player for the club, however Costa was injured and out of form.
Atletico faced the problem of players returning from injury and being out of shape not only with Costa, said Antic, but also with Spain midfielders; Jorge Resurreccion Merodio, best known as Koke, Saul Ñiguez and Uruguay defender Diego Godin.
Antic also talked about Real Madrid, saying that the CL title holder gave Ajax spaces between its lines during the first leg of the last-16 round last week, which would generate more problems for the Spanish side, should the same occur in the second leg, scheduled for March 5.
Antic, said he was not seeing a specific favorite to win the La Liga title this season, despite Barcelona’s seven-point lead ahead of second-placed Atletico, and nine-point advantage over Real Madrid.
Antic, who played for Serbia’s Partizan, Turkey’s Fenerbahce and Spain’s Real Zaragoza during the 1970s and 80s, spent many years coaching La Liga teams.
He led his country’s national team for two years, a spell that ended shortly after the 2010 FIFA World Cup held in South Africa, when Serbia was knocked out from the group stage, having bagged a win against Germany (1-0) and suffering two defeats to Australia (2-1) and Ghana (1-0).
Antic’s last two coaching jobs were in the Chinese league, leading SD Luneng (2012-2013) and HB Zhongji (2015).