World Cup English

Portugal boss Fernando Santos says forward’s role ‘to be defined’ after dropping him

Star-whout-a-club Cristiano Ronaldo seems to be up to his pouting antics again after being dropped to the bench for Portugal’s last-16 spectacular World Cup win over Switzerland.

The Portugal captain only came on as a 74th-minute substitute after his replacement Goncalo Ramos scored a hat-trick in the 6-1 victory. This has led Gary Neville to comment on ITV: “The petulance, the sulking, it’s got to stop.”

After dropping his captain for their emphatic last-16 win over Switzerland, Portugal boss Fernando Santos said Ronaldo’s role for the remainder of the World Cup is something that has to be “defined”, which does not seem to augur well for his celebrated skipper.

The 37-year-old star could only watch from the bench as his replacement Goncalo Ramos fired from all cylinders to score a hat-trick in the 6-1 win to set up a quarter-final against Morocco.

Ronaldo has not started at a major tournament for the first time since Euro 2008, and was eventually brought on as a 74th-minute substitute with Portugal 5-1 up.

The entire football world watched incredulously as Ronaldo left Manchester United last month definitely not under the best of circumstances. He even at times cast a shadow over his team in Qatar, where his manager expressed unhappiness about his reaction to being substituted against South Korea.

Asked about Ronaldo after the Switzerland win, Santos said: “That is still something that has to be defined.

“I have a very close relationship with him – I always have, I have known him since he was 19 years old.”

Gary Neville has this to say when asked about Ronaldo’s latest reaction:

“When it happened at Manchester United, the suggestion was that Erik ten Hag was trying to make a move on Ronaldo, but Fernando Santos is a manager who has had an unbelievable relationship with Ronaldo for eight years.

“There are a lot of Ronaldo fans who aren’t willing to tell him the truth, I think he does need to listen to the truth. It’s becoming a bit of a scruffy end.

“The petulance, the sulking, it’s got to stop because it doesn’t reflect well on him at all. His long-term legacy is set as one of the great all-time players, but in the short term he’s got to do a lot better.

“Is the Juventus manager wrong? The Manchester United manager wrong? And now the Portugal manager wrong? Three of them have now done the same thing with him.

“Ronaldo’s single-mindedness over the years has been one of his great strengths. His determination to be the best in the world, score the most goals, break all the records, the fight with [Lionel] Messi.

“But there comes a point where you’ve got to think about the collective, and that is your team-mates in the dressing room.

“Leaving games early like he did at Manchester United twice, stomping off the other day against South Korea when actually some of his team-mates – Bernardo Silva and Bruno Fernandes – didn’t start.

“It’s coming to the point where Ronaldo is not accepting the end of his career very well but, on the other hand, if Spain [who lost to Morocco on penalties in the last 16] had him up front in the final half hour of their game he would have probably got them through!”

Sky Sports’ Jamie Carragher however is more inclined to believe that Ronaldo was dropped for performance reasons and not for his petulant reaction to being brought off against South Korea.

He said on social media: “Would Santos the manager of Portugal drop Ronaldo just because of his reaction to being subbed in the last game? A manager at club level maybe yes. With possibly 3 games to a WC final.

“I think he has been left out because of his performances not his reaction.”