Madrid - Three-time World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo has backtracked on critical comments of his Real Madrid teammates following their 1-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid.
The derby defeat on Saturday realistically ended Real's title challenge as they now trail leaders Barcelona by nine points having also played a game more.
Ronaldo lambasted his teammates by suggesting Real would be top if everyone was as good as him.
"If everyone was at my level, we would be top," he said.
However, Ronaldo issued a subsequent statement to Madrid sports daily Marca claiming he was referring to his fitness levels having not missed a minute of La Liga action this season.
"When I said this I was referring to my level of fitness, not play. I am not better than any of my teammates."
Ronaldo had in particular questioned the role of Madrid's squad players in the absence of the injured Gareth Bale, Marcelo and Pepe.
"I don't want to undervalue any of my teammates, but when the best aren't there it is difficult to win."
"I like to play with Pepe, Karim (Benzema), Bale, Marcelo. I don't want to say that Jese (Rodriguez), Lucas (Vazquez), (Mateo) Kovavic are not good players, they are very good, but to win a competition you need the best."
However, Real captain Sergio Ramos launched a staunch defence of the rest of the squad, pressuring Ronaldo into a climbdown.
"We are proud of everyone that is part of the squad and the work of all the players that get fewer minutes (on the field)," said the Spanish international.
"Players like Vazquez, Jese or Borja (Mayoral) are giving everything because they know how hard it is to get their chance here, but Cristiano is free to offer his opinion."