Doha, Qatar – Portugal manager Fernando Santos has dropped captain Cristiano Ronaldo from the starting line-up after the five-time Ballon d’Or winner reacted angrily to being substituted against South Korea.
There were growing calls for the 37-year-old superstar to be dropped for the final-16 match on Tuesday against Switzerland at Lusail Stadium.
The former Real Madrid and Manchester United forward appeared angry on Friday after he was taken off 25 minutes from the end of Portugal’s match, which they lost 2-1.
Santos made his feelings clear about his striker’s reaction during the pre-match press conference on Monday.
“I didn’t like it, not at all. I really did not like it,” Santos told reporters.
“But from that moment onwards, everything is finished, full stop, regarding that issue,” Santos said. “Now, we have to think about tomorrow’s match, and everyone is focused on tomorrow’s match.”
Ronaldo has said his angry reaction was aimed at a South Korean player rather than his manager for substituting him.
The Portuguese striker said the opposing player told him to leave the pitch quickly, which he did not appreciate.
In Lusail, the exclusion of the team’s talisman is a hot topic, and it has divided fans.
“He should start,” Rui Pomares said. “He is the best player in the world. He is a great player. Awesome footballer. A true legend.”
“His reaction is understandable,” Pomares’ wife, Patricia, argued. “Nobody likes to be substituted, and I don’t believe he should have been taken off.”
“When he retires, we will miss him. The world of football will miss him too,” she added.
‘Other players in better shape’
But others say Santos was right to put Ronaldo on the bench, not because of his reaction but over his performances at the World Cup.
“I think it is right that he is on the bench, not because of how he reacted but because other players are in better shape and have been playing better than him,” said Jose Antonio, who travelled from Porto for the match.
“Ronaldo has not played great in this tournament,” he said. “Let’s be fair to the other players. He should be brought on as a substitute.”
Ronaldo – who is appearing in what is almost certainly his last World Cup – needs one goal to equal Eusebio’s record of nine goals in World Cup matches for Portugal.
But the Portuguese striker has not lit up the competition in Qatar.
He scored a penalty in his team’s opening match against Ghana but has not found the back of the net in the following two matches.
After scoring against the West Africans, Ronaldo became the first player to score at five World Cups.
“I have mixed feelings about this,” David Afonso said. “Ronaldo is still a very good player, but our team can play better without him, and they have shown that.”
“Ronaldo wants to play every game and wants to win everything, so it was not unexpected how he reacted,” Afonso said. “I feel Ronaldo still has a lot to give to our team.”
Ronaldo came into the tournament in the middle of a storm after he gave an interview in which he criticised his then-Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag.
His contract at the English Premier League side was terminated by mutual consent after the explosive TV interview.
Since making his debut in 2003, Ronaldo has scored 118 goals in 194 games for Portugal.
He has found the back of the net for his country every year for the past 19 years.
In September 2021, Ronaldo broke the world record for international goals scored when he put two past Ireland.