Fernando Santos and Joao Felix have come out fighting against rumours that Cristiano Ronaldo threatened to leave Portugal’s World Cup squad.
Santos told the media: “I think it’s high time to leave Ronaldo alone.
“He has never told me that he wanted to leave our national team and I think it’s high time we stopped with this conversation, that we stop with the polemics.
“I spoke to him after lunch on the day of the game and invited him into my office.
“For obvious reasons, Cristiano was not very happy about it as he has always been the starting player. He told me: ‘Do you really think it’s a good idea?’ but we had a normal conversation in which I explained my viewpoints, and of course, he accepted them. We had a frank and normal conversation.”
Felix also spoke frankly about the Ronaldo situation and believes that the rumours have been engineered to disrupt the spirit within the squad.
“I would like to leave a message to the Portuguese people and to the press. Portugal is in a great competition. We haven’t reached the quarter-finals for a long time. We should all be closer together and not try to get the atmosphere worse.”
Meanwhile, 2014 World Cup winner Mesut Ozil has taken to social media to offer his support for Ronaldo, and has clearly been irritated by the negativity surrounding the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
In a Twitter thread, he said: “I really don’t get where this constant negativity from the press about Cristiano comes from. The media is just trying to get clicks, and pundits who don’t have a career anymore just want to get attention with his big name and try to make him look bad.
“He is soon 38 years old – so what’s the surprise that he doesn’t score 50 goals a season anymore? Every football fan out there should be happy to have seen him playing world class football for 20 years.
“I don’t think anyone from the new generation will be able to match his numbers again. He will forever be in his own category.
“Everyone should show more respect to one of the greatest athletes in sports history.”
It remains to be seen whether Ronaldo is reintroduced to Portugal’s starting line-up ahead of their quarter-final clash against Morocco on Sunday.
The victors will face either England or France in the semi-finals next Wednesday.
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