Sarri on Ronaldo substitution: I’d be much more worried if he didn’t seem upset

Maurizio Sarri said Juventus “can only thank” Cristiano Ronaldo for pushing through pain to play and explained the on-going knee injury.

The Bianconeri needed a victory to go into the break for international duty as Serie A leaders, following Inter’s win at Hellas Verona, and they achieved it with substitute Paulo Dybala’s moment of magic against Milan.

Sarri raised eyebrows by substituting Cristiano Ronaldo after just 55 minutes, days after replacing him against Lokomotiv Moscow, a decision CR7 did not seem happy with.

“We must thank Ronaldo, because he made a sacrifice to be there at all tonight in a difficult situation. He did everything possible to play, but I saw he was not well and thought it best to take him off,” Sarri told Sky Sport Italia.

“It’s only natural a player is going to be irritated to leave the pitch, especially when he worked so hard to be there. Over the last month, he has had this little knee problem, he had a knock in training and it hurt the collateral ligament. When he trains at high intensity or plays, it unbalances him, so he ends up overcompensating and it damages the calf and thigh muscles.

“It is affecting his performances and he is not at his best at the moment. All players who are trying to give their best will have at least five minutes of being annoyed when they are substituted, but a coach would in general be much more worried if he didn’t seem upset.”

Juventus are top of the table again, but once more they only managed to win by a one-goal margin.

“I liked the spirit of the team, but we have to improve immensely in terms of quality, as we made too many mistakes, gave the ball away cheaply and opened up spaces for Milan. The hunger and determination to win is what kept us going.

“Milan had shots on goal, but they were almost all efforts from outside the penalty area. They have impressive passing quality, played clearly above their average performance level of this season and have strong technique.

“Gonzalo Higuain isn’t scoring as much as he did in the past, but he is working hard to help the defence, combines better with his teammates and is always ready for the assist.”