Cristiano Ronaldo was on the scoresheet as Juventus hit the ground running with a 3-0 win over Sampdoria in their first Serie A fixture under Andrea Pirlo, but the Italian has already hinted at managing his star man’s game time.
Ronaldo rounded off a comfortable night for Juve in Turin by drilling in his team’s third goal of the night in the 88th minute, following a first-half finish from 21-year-old Dejan Kulusevski and a second-half goal from veteran defender Leonardo Bonucci.
CRISTIANO RONALDO WHAT A FINISH..pic.twitter.com/zKCYlBe2qb
It was a first Serie A win in the dugout for Pirlo, who took over from the sacked Maurizio Sarri in the summer in a surprise move at the Italian champions.
In keeping with the new era at the Bianconeri, Pirlo picked a new-look Juve team which featured debuts for Swedish winger Kulusevski as well as American youngster Weston McKennie in midfield, and only a second Serie A start for 21-year-old Italian Gianluca Frabotta.
But after Kulusevski stroked in the opener from the edge of the box on 13 minutes, it was the veteran forces of Bonucci and Ronaldo who secured the win. For the 35-year-old Portuguese, it meant he has now scored in 19 consecutive senior seasons.
It’s always good to start the season with a win!✌🏼💪🏼Well done team👏🏼 #finoallafine#forzajuvepic.twitter.com/mRzd6ndAsO
Despite his advancing years, Ronaldo’s relentless drive remains as strong as ever as he continues to be religiously devoted to keeping himself in top physical form.
However, new boss Pirlo admitted that the pair had already discussed managing the star’s game time this season to avoid burnout.
“We are thinking about [how to use Ronaldo] and talked it over,” said the Italian World Cup winner after the game.
“He’s not tired yet, as we just started, but when we come up to less important games, we’ll try to give him a rest.
“He’s a very intelligent lad who knows his body very well, so he is aware of when it’s time to rest or to step it up.”
Ronaldo has a well-known aversion to being substituted – shown several times last season under Sarri – but the Portuguese himself has hinted at an acceptance that as age takes a toll, he will need to be more selective with his exertions.
“I’ll tell you, if it were up to me, I would only play some important games. Those of the national team and the Champions League,” the prolific forward said last season.
“It’s these kinds of games that emerge, those with a stake, a difficult environment, a pressure.”
In that respect he appears to be on the same page as new mentor Pirlo, under whom The Old Lady will attempt to claim a 10th straight Scudetto, but more importantly chase the Champions League success which has so painfully eluded them since they last won Europe’s top club prize in 1996.
On the personal front, Ronaldo will be bidding to replicate – if not improve – the form which last season saw him bag 37 goals in 46 appearances for Juve, including 31 strikes in Serie A.