The Whites, at the time, were 2-1 to the good and seemingly on course for a third straight La Liga victory.
Ronaldo, himself, had not enjoyed his best evening – having had seven shots at goal but hit the target just twice.
With the fixtures coming thick and fast this month, including the first leg of Los Blancos’ second-round Champions League clash with Paris Saint-Germain on Valentine’s Day (February 14), Zidane opted to give Ronaldo’s legs a breather for the last few minutes.
After he was withdrawn from the action at the Estadi Ciutat de Valencia, the cameras predictably zoomed in on the visibly frustrated 32-year-old as he took his place on the bench.
According to Marca, the club legend gestured at the television cameras, putting his fingers over lips, and saying: “not this” – inferring they should be filming the action on the pitch and not him.
As it was, Levante conjured up an equaliser in the 89th minute to compound Real’s misery and Ronaldo’s as the match finished all square at 2-2.
After a frustrating night’s substitution, Real Madrid’s Cristiano was quick to direct attention away from himhttps://t.co/ycfvq5Vudd
— AS English (@English_AS) February 3, 2018
Los Blancos head to Levante on Saturday having all but surrendered their La Liga crown, sitting fourth and trailing leaders Barcelona by 19 points.
The pressure continued to mount on Zidane after his team crashed out of the Copa del Rey to Leganes after a second-leg defeat at the Bernabeu, but they returned to form with a 4-1 win at top-four rivals Valencia at the weekend.
Zidane wants everyone to stay focused on the positives of a group which not so long ago completed a LaLiga and Champions league double.
“When it’s time to work, you have to get stuck into it,” the head coach said ahead of Saturday night’s trip to Ciutat de Valencia.
“In my first year we had three weeks to work and we did very well, we improved a lot. Now we have to do the same – strength, resistance, speed.”
Zidane added: “We remain united in the hard times. I think my players always remain dedicated and driven.
“I have real faith in my squad and I tell them that, they repay that faith with hard work, fight and knowing this is not the end.”
Zidane: “If you think you can just turn up v PSG you are wrong. The players know that. We must use these games before to recover our confidence. We have scored 11 goals in our last two games, and we must continue along this line.”
— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) February 2, 2018
“You are sitting here acting like La Liga is done for, but I don’t think that is the case. We will keep plugging away, trying to win those games,” Zidane said at a press conference, quoted on the club’s official website.
“In the European Cup we feel excited, raring to go. Real Madrid have won plenty of those cups already and we are going into the next Champions League game looking to win as always.”
Zidane: “Isco is very important for us. Tomorrow if Isco plays, it will be why not Asensio, the next day it will be Ceballos. You [media] are there to talk about that, I am here to pick my team.”
— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) February 2, 2018
Ronaldo – who scored twice against both Deportivo La Coruna and Valencia – had been doing work in the gym as he shook off a calf problem, but should be involved on Saturday.
Opponents Levante are scrapping at the other end of the La Liga table and sit just two points clear of the relegation zone.
Head coach Juan Muniz feels the struggle of all teams are relative.
“They are one of the best sides in the world, so losing a match is a crisis for Madrid.
“But when a machine works well, it goes to Mestalla and wins 4-1.”
Provided by Press Association Sport
“Of course I admire Zidane because he was an extraordinary footballer,” Xavi said in an interview with beIN Sports. “It was wonderful to watch him play.”
Last summer, Zidane was poised to establish his Real Madrid side as one of history’s best. They’d become the first team to win the Champions League twice in a row, and done a La Liga and European double for just the third time in the club’s history – and for the first time in 59 years.
At the same time, it seemed Barcelona were floundering, setting the stage for an era of Real Madrid dominance.
Instead, Madrid have stumbled in the league this season, falling 19 points behind leaders Barcelona, and face a tough Round of 16 tie in the Champions League against Paris Saint-Germain. They also crashed out of the Copa del Rey following a shock home loss to Leganes.
As much as Xavi must delight in the shift in Spanish football’s balance of power, he says he hasn’t enjoyed watching Zidane struggle.
“My pain has been to see him suffer at Real Madrid. It’s a real shame,” Xavi said.
“Everyone has admired Zidane and continues to admire him. Not just as a player; he’s a gentleman, a sensible, noble person known by the entire world of football. He’s an example to follow.”
Xavi compared him to fellow Barcelona legend Lionel Messi, who has long been the Spaniard’s favourite player.
“Who wasn’t a fan of Diego Maradona or isn’t now a fan of Messi?” he asked. “They are magical players who have had a magic wand that told them they were going to be the best of their generation.
“Maradona, Messi, Pele, Johan Cruyff, Zidane, Alfredo Di Stefano remain in the memory of all football lovers. They have been the players to make a difference.”
Madrid face Levante this weekend off the back of a 4-1 win at Valencia last Saturday, then have a home fixture against Real Sociedad next weekend before the visit of PSG.