Cristiano Ronaldo did NOT threaten to leave Portugal World Cup 2022 camp, insists head coach

 (PA)
(PA)

Portugal head coach Fernando Santos has denied claims Cristiano Ronaldo tried to leave the team's World Cup squad in Qatar, even if he questioned being dropped from the side.

Ronaldo was axed for Portugal’s last-16 win over Switzerland on Tuesday and his replacement, Goncalo Ramos, scored a hat-trick. Since then, reports in Portugal have claimed Ronaldo tried to leave the squad in Qatar as he was angry at being dropped.

Ahead of Portugal’s quarter-final against Morocco on Saturday, Santos - during a press conference answer lasting nearly five minutes - has moved to dismiss those reports and insisted Ronaldo is supporting the team.

Santos revealed he told Ronaldo on the day of the Swiss game that he was being dropped, with Ronaldo eventually accepting the decision after initially questioning it.

“We did have a conversation and it would be very bad if we had not had this conversation,” said Santos. “Since I took the helm of the national team, we needed to talk and have a closer relationship with the players.

“It’s normal. I have always done that throughout my career. There are coaches that have a different approach, but that’s my approach - to talk to our players, to have a close relationship.

“The conversation needed to happen. It is part of our basis. I do not do that with all of our players, I am not going to say so because that would not be true, but he is the captain of our squad.

“You know what he represents for Portuguese football, what he represents for the Portuguese people and also for our national team. Naturally, I needed to talk to him.

Santos and Ronaldo. (PA)
Santos and Ronaldo. (PA)

“So, when we had this conversation, it was on the match day after lunch. I did not have any conversations with him before that - neither on Monday or Sunday. I never talked to him before.

“The only conversation I had with him was on that day of the game and I explained to him why he would not play. So, after we lunch we met. I explained to him why he would not be one of the starters. I explained to him so that he would not be surprised.

“I invited him to my office and I said: ‘Listen you are not going to be one of the starting players. I think you will be very important, but I think in terms of strategy it is better for you not to be in the field of play’.

“We expected that the game would be even more difficult and I would save him for the second half if need be.

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“I did it naturally, as I always do with my players. Cristiano, for obvious reasons, was not very happy about it, because he has always been a starting player, except for one or two games in which he was on the bench.

“Obviously he was not happy about it and he told me: ‘Do you really think it is a good idea?’ But we had a normal conversation which I explained to him my viewpoints and, of course, he accepted. We had a frank and normal conversation.

“He has never told me that he wanted to leave our national team. I think it is high time we stopped with this conversation.

“An example of what I have just said is what he did on the bench. He was the one who started warming up with all the players, even if he knew he was not going to be one of the starting players.

“He celebrated all the goals that were scored. You could see him and Joao Mario clapping their hands.

“At the end he was the one who invited his team-mates to thank the fans. So, I think it is high time for you to leave Ronaldo alone in an acknowledgement for all that he did for Portuguese football.”