Portugal head coach Fernando Santos has asked the media to get off the back of his starman Cristiano Ronaldo after a flurry of questions about the legendary striker was directed at the Portugal coach.
The former Manchester United player has been in the eye of the media recently after he appeared to show his displeasure at being substituted in Portugal’s 2-1 loss to South Korea in the final group game of the ongoing World Cup in Qatar.
He was then subject to even more scrutiny when he started from the bench in Portugal’s 6-1 win over Switzerland last Tuesday.
And ahead of Portugal’s quarter finals meeting with Morocco, coach Santos has been asked to clarify reports about Ronaldo wanting to leave the camp after being benched, whether he had fallen out with his team-mates, and what his mood was in the camp.
The 68-year-old coach confirmed that he had a conversation with Ronaldo before dropping him for the Switzerland game.
“I did have a conversation with Cristiano and it would have been bad if I did not have that conversation with him,” said Santos via Sportsmail.
“Since I took the helm of the national team, we needed to have a closer relationship with the players. That’s my approach, to have a close relationship with them.
“So, that conversation needed to happen. I don’t do that with all the players. But he’s the captain.
“What he represents for Portuguese football, the people and its national team, I naturally needed to talk to him. I spoke to him after lunch on the match day, ahead of the Switzerland game. I did not have any conversations before. I explained to him why he would not be playing.
“I did it so he wouldn’t be surprised. I invited him to my office and told him, ‘It’s better for our strategy if you didn’t play’. I said I’d save him for the second half. Cristiano was not very happy about it. He has always been one of the starting players.’
Continuing, Santos said: “He said, ‘Do you really think it’s a good idea?’ We had a conversation which explained my viewpoints. He never told me he wanted to leave. So, it’s high time we stopped with this conversation.
“An example of what I just said is what he did at the match. He warmed up with the players. Even if he knew he wasn’t going to play. He celebrated all the goals we scored. At the end, he was the one who invited his colleagues to thank the fans.”
Santos also warned the press to stop asking about Ronaldo and recognise him for his contribution to football.
“It’s time for you to leave Ronaldo alone,” the coach demanded.
“In acknowledgement of what he has done for Portuguese football. Ninety per cent of the questions are due to him.
“That’s because of the magnitude of his performance. What does it matter if I spoke to him before the match?”