On the eve of the start of the 2022 World Cup, Portugal is trying to minimize the impact of its choice on the controversy caused by its star, Cristiano Ronaldo, in an open conflict with his club, Manchester United.
“Do not disturb”, “Santos reduces”, “immune selection” … On Thursday, most Portuguese headlines referred to the previous day’s reassuring remarks from coach Fernando Santos about the exclusive interview in which he made the five-time ball team. Or hit red balls at United leaders and coach Erik Ten Hag.
“It’s a private matter, it concerns him, and it doesn’t go beyond choice,” insisted the 68-year-old during the pre-World Cup pre-match press conference against Nigeria on Thursday (6:45pm GMT). ) in Lisbon.
Santos stressed that Ronaldo did not consult the coach or the Portuguese Federation before conducting the interview, “and he did not have to.”
– ‘Not much interest’ –
Young defender Antonio Silva said, “We do not pay much attention (…) The most important thing is that we all be together to represent the Seleção as best we can at the World Cup.”
A few days before the start of the World Cup in Qatar, the “CR7” interview with star host Piers Morgan on TalkTV, a new episode of which was to be broadcast on Thursday evening in Great Britain, caused a real explosion in the country. The football world that turns its eyes on the Portuguese captain and his team, Manchester United.
In this interview, excerpts of which were broadcast on Sunday, the 37-year-old striker opened up about his situation at the Red Devils, expressing his feeling of being “betrayed”, and harshly criticizing his coach Erik ten Hag and his companions. from the club accusing him of wanting to overthrow him.
In England, like Gary Neville, the former Portuguese partner at the Red Devils, there are few illusions about his future at the club: “I agree with some things that Cristiano said (…) but the truth is that if you are an employee of a company and he says such things, Your job must be finished and Man United must do so in the next few days.”
Regarding the World Cup, Thursday’s analysis of the Portuguese sports press contrasted Fernando Santos’ optimism.
“This interview will not only have a strong impact on Manchester, where Cristiano will not play again, but will also have consequences for the selection,” because the controversy captures the attention of “the last week of preparations,” the sports newspaper worries. Paula in his editorial.
The challenge is to “get the whole group focused on football, selection meetings and their goals”, warns the daily, while its rival’s record raises unanswered questions.
– “embarrassing questions” –
“In this interview, the awkward questions are missing,” notes the deputy director of the sports daily. And to add: “It remains to be seen what Ronaldo thinks he made a mistake in this matter and who advises him.”
In this context, the absence of CR7 from the preparatory meeting against Nigeria due to gastritis fuels all the speculations. “With Cristiano, everything raises doubts. But no, he already has this problem that prevents him from training”, had to specify Fernando Santos.
And on Wednesday evening, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner missed a visit from Prime Minister Antonio Costa, who traveled to “Football City”, the Portuguese training center located on the western outskirts of Lisbon, to wish the Seleçao well. good luck.
“There is a lot of controversy around this World Cup, but there is only one thing that is not controversial and that is that we are all behind the selection,” he told the players on the field after a training session.
Without their captain, Portugal will face Nigeria before traveling to Qatar on Friday as they kick off the World Cup on November 24 against Ghana, before then facing Uruguay and South Korea in Group H.