Portugal manager says 'leave Cristiano Ronaldo alone' ahead of Morocco World Cup clash

Santos attempts to shift focus onto quarter-final match and away from veteran attacker

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Portugal manager Fernando Santos says it is “high time to leave Cristiano Ronaldo alone”, as the coach tries to focus solely on his side's World Cup quarter-final with Morocco on Saturday.

Ronaldo, the Portugal captain, was left out of the starting line-up for Tuesday's last-16 clash with Switzerland, which the 2016 European champions went on to win 6-1. Ronaldo was brought into the action as a second-half substitute, and later had a goal disallowed for offside.

The all-time leading goalscorer in men's international football, Ronaldo then disputed claims in the Portuguese press that he wanted to quit the World Cup after being dropped.

On Thursday, he said in a statement on social media that the squad is “too strong to be broken by outside forces”, with the Portuguese football federation also denial reports of a bust-up.

Ronaldo, 37, is without a club having left Manchester United last month by mutual consent.

Speaking on Friday ahead of their last-eight clash with Morocco, Santos sought to explain how he informed Ronaldo before the Switzerland match that he would not be included in the line-up.

“I spoke to him after lunch on the day of the game and invited him into my office,” Santos said." For obvious reasons Cristano 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.

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“We had a frank and normal conversation.”

Santos later added: "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.”

Sitting alongside his manager on Friday, forward Joao Felix was also drawn on the media coverage surrounding Ronaldo.

“I would like to leave a message to the Portuguese people and to the press,” he said." 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.”

Portugal take on Morocco at Al Thumama Stadium on Saturday, with the winner going on to meet either France or England in next week's semi-finals.

Updated: December 09, 2022, 2:15 PM