FIFA president Gianni Infantino said Real Madrid must look to replace Cristiano Ronaldo and predicted a three-way La Liga title race this season between Madrid, reigning champions Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.
Infantino, who attended La Liga’s fixtures draw on Tuesday, told Cadena Ser’s “El Larguero” radio show that the league would be weaker without Ronaldo but new Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui still has a spectacular squad to work with.
“Cristiano is a ‘crack‘, one of those players who make us dream,” Infantino said. “That he is not playing in Spain any more means that Spanish football will have to look for someone to replace him. But I am convinced that Madrid have great players, champions.
“A team that loses Cristiano Ronaldo is weaker than a team with Ronaldo, but those white shirts have a phenomenal force. Madrid still have a spectacular team and a very strong coach in Lopetegui … so I believe this will be another good year for Real Madrid.”
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Ronaldo joined Juventus for €100 million earlier this month after nine seasons at Madrid, and club president Florentino Perez then saw longtime targets Neymar and Kylian Mbappe commit their futures to Paris Saint-Germain while potential moves for Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and Inter Milan’s Mauro Icardi have not progressed.
Infantino also predicted a three-way race in La Liga, with Barca’s Lionel Messi and Atletico’s Antoine Griezmann likely to stand out.
“We will have a very hard season after the World Cup, where Griezmann was champion,” Infantino said. “[Atletico coach Diego] Simeone knows how to motivate his team. Barca have Messi.”
Also on Tuesday, Madrid were presented with La Liga’s fair play award for the fewest bookings last season, even though Ronaldo missed the first five games for pushing the referee during the Supercopa and captain Sergio Ramos set a league record in December with his 19th red card.
Madrid, who also won the award in 2016-17, topped the table with 76 points, with Real Sociedad on 77 points and Barcelona on 90 points.