The FIFA World Cup is just around the horizon, as Portugal coach Fernando Santos revealed his reaction over his captain Cristiano Ronaldo’s situation at Manchester United. The 37-year-old forward has endured a tough time at Old Trafford, after failing to find new club in summer was coupled by his constant benching by new manager Erik ten Hag. Ronaldo has only featured regularly in the Europa League this season, the very reason he wanted to leave United.
He also has disappointing numbers to show going into the World Cup, having netted just 3 goals in 16 games in all competitions. Moreover, his antics during the Spurs game last month forced Ten Hag to drop him from the squad for the following game against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Rumours of the club now planning to offload the three-time Premier League winner in January, either by cashing in on him or terminating his contract, have caught pace. Amidst the chaos, it was the Portugal manager who was rather going through a rollercoaster ride, as he has now opened up about his reaction.
Santos speaks up on Cristiano Ronaldo’s axing from United squad
It was natural that the Portugal manager got worried about his star player’s tough time at club level, with an all important tournament coming up this month. Portugal will look for inspiration from their captain at the upcoming World Cup, as they have failed to get past the Round of 16 in the tournament since 2010. And with the five-time Ballon d’Or winner probably playing in his last ever World Cup, the Selecaos will want to go as deep as they can in Qatar.
But Santos will need Cristiano Ronaldo in the right mind to fire on all cylinders in the global showpiece, before he can expect his team to go deep. And with the current situation of the former Real Madrid striker at United, one can say the No.7 is neither in the best of his shapes, nor the form ahead of the World Cup. Santos has now admitted that he was ‘worried’ over the same, with EURO 2016 champion being left out of the squad by Ten Hag. Speaking to Portuguese newspaper O Jogo, Santos said:
“There was a moment with Cristiano when I was worried, when you heard that he weren’t going to train with the team, that’s what. If I was training alone, it would be very difficult.”
With growing tiffs between Ronaldo and Ten Hag, it was even being speculated whether or not the United forward will be a starter at the World Cup for his nation. His form at the club level however hasn’t been one which could guarantee him a starting role, but the all-time to scoring player at the international stage has always turned up for his country.
Ronaldo will try and do the same this time as well, since he will definitely want to improve his side’s results from previous editions of the competition. Portugal do have a squad, with the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva, Rafael Leao, Joao Cancelo, Joao Felix, Ruben Neves and many more alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, to be labelled as pre-tournament favourites.
They will still need the United forward to resume his scoring exploits for the national team at the tournament, where they will face Ghana, South Korea and old foes Uruguay in the Group H. Expectations have always been high for this Portugal team, after they triumphed at the EURO 2016, and won the inaugural UEFA Nations League. However, they have regularly jinxed at the World Cup since reaching the semi-finals in 2006, Ronaldo’s best run with his country. He will try to better it this time by reaching the final, which the Portuguese are well capable of.