Cristiano Ronaldo refused to train with the team’s substitutes ahead of Portugal’s quarter-final, according to reports from Portugal.
Ronaldo came off the bench in a 6-1 victory over Switzerland that moved Portugal into the quarterfinals with his 21-year-old replacement Gonçalo Ramos, scoring a hat-trick in the win — a performance sure to raise questions over the superstar’s future with his national team.
The record goalscorer congratulated Ramos on the field at the end of the game, then walked toward the Portugal section of fans and briefly clapped in their direction.
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But as the rest of the squad had their moment of fan appreciation, Ronaldo left his teammates behind and walked off alone through the tunnel.
Speaking on Portugal’s win and Santos’ selection, Ronaldo said: “Incredible day for Portugal, with a historic result in the biggest competition in world football.
“Luxury exhibition of a team full of talent and youth. Our selection is to be congratulated.
“The dream is alive! Until the end! Strength, Portugal!”
But it appears things aren’t as rosy as what the football champion wants the public to believe.
According to Portuguese publication EFE Deportes, a day after Portugal’s qualification, coach Fernando Santos organized a training session for players who started on the bench against Switzerland, and Ronaldo was reportedly not among them.
The report states Ronaldo was with the players in the starting squad in the gym, despite starting the last match off the bench. Whether that means the 37-year-old will start in the next match against Morocco on Sunday morning AEDT is uncertain, but local media claims it is surprising that he was not with the group of substitutes.
Ronaldo’s benching also led to his partner, Georgina Rodríguez, to call out the coach on social media after the match.
In a post on Instagram, Rodriguez congratulated Portugal on its victory while suggesting the fans at the game came to watch the star and also took a veiled shot at the coach.
“Congratulations Portugal. While the 11 players sang the hymn, all the goals placed on you,” she wrote.
“What a shame not to have been able to enjoy the best player in the world during the 90 minutes. The fans have not stopped claiming you and shouting your name.
“I hope that God and your dear friend Fernando (Santos) continues hand in hand and make us vibrate one more night.”
Ronaldo’s sisters also came out in defense of the football legend.
Katia and Elma Aveiro shared messages of support on social media for Ronaldo.
Katia Alviero wrote: ”Portugal won. Thank God. New talents shone. Wonderful. (…) And even this does not invalidate the smallness of a large part of the Portuguese. And this is what is not right, because they keep cursing, they keep insisting on the offense and the ingratitude. Very sad with what I read and hear. Not here in Qatar, but in my country, in your country… But really sad.
“I really wanted him to come home, leave the national team and sit next to us to hug him and tell him that everything is fine, remind him of what he achieved and what house he came from, I really wanted him not to go there anymore, we have already suffered enough (they will never know how much). You are big and the little ones do not realize how big you are… Come home. That is where they understand you, where they hug you”.
Elma Riviero wrote: “Support Portugal whoever plays. Portugal is a team, it’s not just Ronaldo… Respect the team, the coach, and especially Ronaldo. Ronaldo will be eternal, never forgotten for everything he did and WILL DO.”
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