Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has hailed Cristiano Ronaldo as a quiet dressing-room leader, saying the forward's importance to the Liga giants goes even further than his spectacular goalscoring record.
Ronaldo, 29, has scored 10 goals in five league appearances this season, while also finding the net once in his first Champions League appearance and twice in the European Supercup win over Sevilla.
These performances have come amid speculation in England over a potential return to Manchester United in a deal worth 140 million pounds next summer, but Ancelotti has dismissed talk of a move.
Asked to explain Ronaldo's scoring burst at his news conference ahead of Wednesday's Champions League group B game at Ludogorets, the Blancos coach said the current Ballon d'Or holder was doing nothing different than before as he led his teammates forward through his professionalism and attitude.
"Without disrespecting anyone, Cristiano is the best player I have coached in my career," Ancelotti said. "Cristiano is always the same. He is a very professional player, serious about the game. He is fighting for what the jersey means. He is a leader in the dressing-room, who does not talk much, but very important for the example he gives with work he does."
Ancelotti suggested he would continue to make some changes to his lineup for the game at Sofia's Stadion Vasil Levski, with fit-again centre-back Pepe among those who may come in as Madrid come towards the end of a spell of seven domestic and European games in 22 days.
"Pepe is available to play tomorrow," he said. "We will see if he is ready to start, to give a rest to Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane who have played a lot. It is important that he is available. It is about seeing how people have recovered in these days."
However, Ancelotti -- who has won the European trophy as both a player and coach with AC Milan -- said he was not underestimating the Bulgarian champions, and the priority was to follow the 5-1 win over Basel first time out with another group victory.
"I am not thinking about planned rotations," Ancelotti said. "It is about who has recovered best from Saturday. The first two games in the Champions League are very important. The first game went well for us, we need the same again. To go top of the group with six points is our primary objective.
"Ludogorets' game against Liverpool was very good. We all know how difficult it is to play at Liverpool, and they showed a lot of courage. They are a very dynamic team, very fast up front, dangerous on the counter."
Madrid youngsters Asier Illarramendi and Isco could also play, having both featured recently in a 4-4-2 formation which Ancelotti admitted made his team more solid without the ball.
"The 4-4-2 is the best system to cover the pitch and to pressure up front," he said. "4-3-3 is different, as there is not the possibility to have balance and to pressure up front with just one player. In games we have tried to defend with 4-4-2 and attack with the players on the wing.
"Isco is not lacking anything, just like Illarramendi. It is normal that there is a lot of competition for places at Real Madrid. He does not need to demonstrate anything on the pitch, he knows he is very important, and every time it is possible he will play to help the team. But I cannot put out more than XI on the pitch."