It says a lot about Cristiano Ronaldo’s star power that even a thumping 6-1 win for Portugal won’t take the focus away from him.
Ronaldo was sensationally dropped for Portugal’s round of 16 clash with Switzerland after a subpar World Cup in Qatar.
Goncalo Ramos justified the shock decision to drop Ronaldo by scoring a hat-trick on his full debut as Portugal demolished Switzerland 6-1 to power into the World Cup quarter-finals.
The 21-year-old Ramos, who started instead of Ronaldo, became the youngest player to strike three times in a World Cup knockout match since Pele in 1958.
Ramos has now scored three goals in the knockout stages of a World Cup, while Ronaldo has none across more than 500 minutes.
Now it seems unlikely Ronaldo will start Portugal’s quarterfinal with Morocco, who knocked out Spain on penalties.
So why was Ronaldo dropped?
The warning signs were there.
Portugal coach Fernando Santos said he was unimpressed with Ronaldo’s behaviour after he reacted badly to being substituted during the final group stage game against Korea Republic.
“I didn’t like it at all. I didn’t like it at all,” Santos said before the Switzerland clash.
But the truth is that Portugal look a better team without the 37-year-old forward.
Ronaldo came into the World Cup after a disjointed season with Manchester United, where he struggled to hold a place in the starting team.
It ended badly with his contract mutually terminated after he gave an explosive interview with Piers Morgan criticising the English club.
Now Ronaldo is in talks to sign a blockbuster deal with Saudi Arabian side Al-Nassr following his high-profile exit from Manchester United.
It says a lot about where Ronaldo is in his career that he’s headed to the Middle East on a big money deal.
His position at Portugal is similar to Gareth Bale at Wales during the World Cup.
Wales struggled with an ageing Bale no longer playing with the pace and power of his peak.
It’s the same with Ronaldo, with a Portugal team that includes Bernado Silba and Bruno Fernandes looking a better team without him.
The question is how does Ronaldo now react to this dumping?
The image of him walking straight off the field after the full-time whistle wasn’t a great sign.
Ronaldo came on as a late substitute but walked straight off rather than celebrate with his teammates.
Former Manchester United teammate Gary Neville said the “sulking” from Ronaldo needs to stop.
“This is a manager who has got an unbelievable relationship with Cristiano Ronaldo for eight years and there are a lot of fans of Ronaldo who are not willing to tell him the truth,” Neville said on ITV before the game this morning.
“I think he does need to listen to the truth that it is becoming a little bit of a scruffy end.
“It would not surprise that he comes on tonight and scores the winner but the petulance, the stomping around, the sulking, it’s got to stop because it does not reflect well on him at all.
“His long-term legacy is set, he is one of the great all-time players.”
Ronaldo could play a crucial role for Portugal in Qatar.
They face a Morocco team that’s only conceded one goal in four games, so having a star like Ronaldo on your bench isn’t the worst thing in the world.
Ronaldo has done something that no other male player may ever repeat – he’s scored at five straight World Cups.
Even playing at five World Cups is an achievement because it means you’re an international player for at least 16 years.
His legacy as one of the greatest of all time is assured. But how he reacts to this morning’s dumping could have a big say in just how far Portugal goes at this World Cup.
Story Credit: news.com.au