Portugal boss refuses to be drawn into excitement over Cristiano Ronaldo move

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Fernando Santos was refusing to be drawn into the excitement over Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Manchester United as he prepared Portugal for their World Cup qualifier against the Republic of Ireland.

United formally confirmed Ronaldo’s signing from Juventus on Tuesday morning on the eve of the Group A clash between his national team and Ireland in the wake of Friday’s shock announcement that the 36-year-old was on his way back to the red half of Manchester.

Portugal boss Santos and goalkeeper Rui Patricio were inundated with questions about their star man at their pre-match press conference in Lisbon hours later, but Santos for one was simply not getting involved.

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Asked how much of a motivation it would be for the team to help Ronaldo break Iran striker Ali Daei’s record of 109 international goals, Santos replied: “What will this bring to tomorrow’s game? Nothing.

“We have only thought about the game against Ireland. We have to be strong and win without thinking about players. It would be bad if we were focused on these aspects.”

Ronaldo, not for the first time, has been the talk of world football since it emerged that he could leave Juventus with Manchester City among his potential destinations before United stepped in.

He will have to wait to be unveiled in front of the club’s fans for a second time after reporting for duty with Portugal ahead of their qualifiers against Ireland and Azerbaijan either side of a friendly clash with World Cup hosts Qatar, and Santos has insisted his captain’s focus has not wavered.

The head coach said: “He is part of our national team, he is the captain and, like everyone, he is super-motivated. Everyone is ready to face Ireland.”

Patricio too insisted Ronaldo’s concentration was firmly on his country’s quest to build upon the seven points they have collected from their first three games in the group.

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The Roma keeper said: “He’s fine. He’s happy to be in the national team to help in these three games, like all the players.

“He’s done as he does in all training sessions and games, which is to give his best.”

Ireland are yet to take a point in the group after defeats by Serbia – who are level on points with the Portuguese – and Luxembourg, but Santos is wary of the threat posed by what he described as a “British”-style team as manager Stephen Kenny attempts to introduce a more-attacking brand of football.

Portugal head coach Fernando Santos is expecting a testing encounter wit the Republic of Ireland
Portugal head coach Fernando Santos is expecting a testing encounter with the Republic of Ireland (Tim Goode/PA)

He said: “It is not a team that only plays in defensive action, the forwards are in a position to come out on the counter-attack.

“We know these characteristics and the pattern of these British teams. For them, the game is never over under any circumstances, they always give everything.

“It takes speed to dismantle this team and if we do it well and are focused, organised, with greater or lesser difficulty, I believe Portugal will win. We have quality players, but we need to be a team.”

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