Reports out of Portugal have revealed Cristiano Ronaldo was set to leave Qatar immediately after he was benched for his nation’s round of 16 clash against Switzerland.
Portugal dominated the Swiss in a 6-1 drubbing as Ronaldo’s replacement Goncalo Ramos scored a hat-trick on his starting debut.
The 21-year-old became the youngest player to strike three times in a World Cup knockout match since Pele in 1958, justifying the decision of coach Fernando Santos to leave Ronaldo out of the starting side.
Subbed in late for Ramos, Ronaldo unleashed a blistering strike that was called back for off-side but seemed to be a pointed message.
It comes after the final group match when Ronaldo appeared to be furious when substituted by Santos.
“I didn’t like it at all. I didn’t like it at all,” the coach said.
The next match, Ronaldo was benched for “strategic” reasons.
Ronaldo also left the field in a huff, walking off away from his teammates. His girlfriend also looked furious.
It’s sparked reports from Portuguese publication Record that Ronaldo was set to quit the World Cup, just as the tournament reached the quarterfinals.
The report said Ronaldo had a sit down with coach Santos after he was told he wouldn’t start against Switzerland and threatened to leave immediately in a “tense” conversation.
But he reportedly had “come to his senses”, seemingly realising Portugal are as good a chance as any team left to win the title, realising his importance to team morale and “quickly changed his mind”.
The Portuguese Football Federation have denied the reports however, claiming Ronaldo had never threatened to leave.
“The FPF clarifies that at no time did the captain of the Selecao, Cristiano Ronaldo, threaten to leave the national team during the stay in Qatar,” said the federation.
“Every day Ronaldo is building up a unique track record at the service of the national team and the country, which must be respected.”
The FPF said Ronaldo’s appearance against Switzerland was a further demonstration of his commitment to the cause.
Ronaldo is the most-capped Portuguese player and the top men’s international goalscorer of all time.
Ronaldo took to social media after the match appearing to point to the fact he didn’t have any hard feelings.
“Amazing day for Portugal, with a historic result in the biggest event in world football,” he wrote.
“Luxury display of a team full of talent and youth. Our Selection is to be congratulated. The dream is alive! To the end! Go ahead, Portugal!”
Maybe he cooled down after storming off. Maybe …
Portugal face Morocco on Saturday in the quarter-finals, where Ramos may again get the nod over Ronaldo.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner did not train with the other substitutes on Wednesday after the game, instead taking part in a gym session alongside the starters against Switzerland.
— with AFP
Story Credit: news.com.au