Portugal coach Fernando Santos is now strongly defending Cristiano Ronaldo as the star striker continues to deal with his various dramas.
ESPN’s Rob Dawson reported Friday morning that Santos spoke with the media and was passionately standing up for Ronaldo.
“He has never told me he wanted to leave the national team, and it’s high time we stopped with the conversation,” the coach said. “He decided to warm up with his colleagues and celebrated all the goals we scored (against Switzerland). At the end, he was the one who invited his colleagues to thank the fans. … It’s high time to leave Cristiano Ronaldo alone. In every news conference, 90% of the questions are about Cristiano Ronaldo.”
Earlier this week, Santos spoke out against the 37-year-old, criticizing him for how he acted after being substituted during last Friday’s group stage loss to South Korea at the World Cup. Ronaldo was benched in favor of 21-year-old Goncalo Ramos to start the knockout round game against the Swiss and the latter ended up leading Portugal to a 6-1 victory by recording a hat-trick.
Ronaldo eventually played in the second half after the game was out of reach.
In Friday’s presser, Santos also discussed his conversation with Ronaldo ahead of the game against Switzerland, when he informed the forward that he would be benched. The coach added that Ronaldo could be back in the lineup for Portugal’s quarterfinal match against Morocco on Saturday.
“For obvious reasons, Cristiano was not happy about it, as he has always been the starting player,” Santos said. “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.”
On top of the headlines regarding Ronaldo’s playing status, he’s also been in the news for his reported agreement to a deal to play with the Saudi Arabian club, Al-Nassr FC.