Andrea Pirlo has played down talks about Cristiano Ronaldo’s discontent for being subbed off in Juventus’ tight 3-2 win over Inter in the Derby d’Italia on Saturday. The Portuguese superstar was brought off with 20 minutes to go as the Bianconeri desperately tried to fend off the opposition attacks and preserve a 2-1 lead.
Ronaldo recorded his 31st Serie A start of the season and was substituted for just the third time as Pirlo looked to keep his ten-man side compact and water-tight at the back. The 36-year-old broke the deadlock at the Allianz Stadium, having put the ball past Samir Handanovic at the second time of asking after seeing the Slovenian deny his penalty.
However, Ronaldo saw his influence on the pitch dwindle on the back of Rodrigo Bentancur’s expulsion as he barely got to touch the ball after his side were reduced to ten men.
Forced to chase back and do the dirty work, the former Real Madrid talisman had virtually no opportunity to showcase his lethal instincts in the final third. As a result, Pirlo decided to withdraw his headline performer in the 70th minute and introduce Alvaro Morata while Juventus were 2-1 up.
Given Ronaldo’s character and desire to participate in every minute of his team’s action, one may assume he was furious with the coach’s decision to sub him off. However, according to Pirlo, the Portugal captain was happy to walk off of the pitch as he understood the complexity of the game.
“I think it was the first time he was happy to be subbed off,” Pirlo told Sky Italia as relayed by the Daily Mail.
“We were one man down, and he’d have been chasing shadows. He was happy and smiling in the dressing room.”
Ronaldo’s strike against arch-rivals was only his second Serie A goal against Inter and his 29th this league campaign as he appears to be waltzing off with the Capocannoniere award. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has tallied six goals more than his Inter counterpart Romelu Lukaku, who was also on the scoresheet on Saturday.