Former Real Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini has said Cristiano Ronaldo deserves to be paid the same as Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.

Ronaldo is under contract until summer 2021 but reports say he feels he should have another pay rise after leading the team to five trophies last year, with both Messi and Paris Saint-Germain’s Neymar paid more than him.

A source close to the player told ESPN FC that Ronaldo would like to return to his former club Manchester United, although the player said last week that he “loved this club” and saw himself there in the long term.

Speaking on El Larguero radio show, Pellegrini, who was Madrid coach when Ronaldo arrived and is now at Hebei China Fortune, said: “Messi has a natural capacity to play football that nobody can match.

“But Cristiano, with his effort and hard work and huge ambition, deserves praise as a tremendous professional.

“Maybe he does not have the same technical qualities, but this allowed him to match what Messi has done all these years.

“I believe that both deserve to be the best paid players in the world for what they have done.”

Pellegrini was also asked for his thoughts on Madrid’s elimination from the Copa del Rey by Leganes, similar to the cup loss to Alcorcon during his own Bernabeu era.

He said: “I am not surprised about the criticism with the way football is today.

“Zinedine Zidane has won an important number of trophies in a very short time.

“In football it is the present which counts, and nobody is free of that problem. It has happened before when you win so many trophies that there can be a small relaxation.

“Madrid are used to having a winning team and have a coach who has proven himself, and a great squad, and have a big chance to win the Champions League.”

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