Portugal coach Fernando Santos has insisted that Cristiano Ronaldo’s controversial interview with Piers Morgan “doesn’t impact” the nation’s chances in the upcoming FIFA World Cup.
Santos was taking questions from the press in a heated press conference in which the manager was bombarded with questions about the Manchester United forward’s controversial interview with Piers Morgan.
Ronaldo made headlines for heavily criticising his club and blasting his coach Erik ten Hag, as well as some former players and teammates, in a controversial interview with the TalkTV host.
The interview has generated so much talk and controversy, and Portugal’s national team coach Santos was not spared some questions. The 68-year-old was repeatedly asked about Ronaldo’s interview but played down any impact it might have on the Portugal dressing room.
“This issue isn’t related to us, it isn’t related to the national team,” Santos said via Football365.
“The man, the player, decided to give an interview like other athletes and men decide to do to discuss personal matters.
“This doesn’t spill out to the national team. As far as I know, he didn’t talk about the national team, so it’s a personal interview which we need to respect. These days, tolerance is a buzzword and we need to respect what others think and say, provided it doesn’t impact what I do. None of my players have made a comment regarding the interview at all.”
Santos also confirmed that Ronaldo wasn’t obligated to notify him or the Portuguese FA before doing the interview.
“Cristiano Ronaldo is a free man. The buzz and discussion (around him) is taking place outside the national team. It doesn’t impact us,” he added.
The coach also confirmed that the five-time Ballon d’Or winner will miss Portugal’s World Cup warm-up game against Nigeria on Thursday because of gastroenteritis.
He said: “He will not be ready for tomorrow. He’s losing a lot of liquid, he’s suffering from gastroenteritis and he isn’t training. He’s in his room, resting and recovering. I’m 100 per cent sure he won’t be available.”
When asked if his illness was genuine, Santos laughed and replied: “If it was any other player, you wouldn’t ask that question. It’s a fact he’s suffering from gastroenteritis. Any player will struggle if you’re suffering from that. He’s not ready to play.”
Santos also played down suggestions that he will be forced to play Ronaldo given that the forward has not enjoyed enough game time in United this season.
“Forced? This is not about forcing me,” Santos said angrily.
“This is not a requirement. No one is forced to do anything here. The question could be, you could ask me, based on what Cristiano Ronaldo did (in recent weeks on the pitch) should he start?
“This is valid for Cristiano Ronaldo and all the players who are with the national team. If the head coach is forced to put a player in the XI…there aren’t those things here.”
Portugal will kick off their World Cup campaign next Thursday against Ghana, before facing Uruguay and South Korea.