Fernando Santos reveals Cristiano Ronaldo reaction to Portugal benching
Portugal boss Fernando Santos has opened up on the conversation he had with Cristiano Ronaldo in which he told the forward he would be dropped for their World Cup last 16 tie with Switzerland.
Santos told the media last week that he was unimpressed with Ronaldo's reaction after being substituted in the Selecao's loss to South Korea. The 37-year-old was then benched for Tuesday's clash with Switzerland, though the coach claimed the switch was nothing more than a tactical tweak.
The decision proved an inspired one as Ronaldo's direct replacement, Goncalo Ramos, scored a hat-trick in a comprehensive 6-1 victory.
Speaking ahead of their World Cup quarter-final with Morocco, Santos revealed that Ronaldo understandably questioned the decision to take him out of the starting lineup.
“It was on the matchday after lunch. I didn’t have a conversation with him before that, not on Monday or Sunday,“ he said.
“The only conversation I had was that day, the game day and I explained why he would not play. After lunch we met, I explained why he would not be starting. I explained to him so he wouldn’t be surprised. I invited him to my office and said ‘Listen, you won’t be starting, I think you’ll be very important but in terms of strategy, it’s better if you don’t play’.
“I explained it was better to save him for the second half. I did it naturally as I always do with my players.
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“Cristiano naturally was not happy as he has always been a starter apart from one or two games. He was not happy and he told me, ‘Do you really think it’s a good idea?’. But we had an important conversation in which I explained my view and of course, he accepted. We had a frank and normal observation.”
Nevertheless, Santos admitted that Ronaldo's attitude has remained positive and again hit out at reports suggesting otherwise.
“He has never told me that he wanted to leave our national team and as Joao [Felix] said, I think it’s high time we stopped with this dialogue because an example of what I just said is what he did in the match,“ he added.
“He was the one who started warming up with the players, even though he knew he wouldn’t be starting he warmed up.
“Even though he didn’t start, he celebrated with his teammates, with Joao Mario. At the end, he was the one who led the celebration with the fans. I think it’s time you leave Ronaldo alone because of what he has done for Portuguese football.”