Cristiano Ronaldo says he ‘felt betrayed’
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Portugal manager Fernando Santos could not stop himself from laughing when he was asked if Cristiano Ronaldo was genuinely ill after missing a training session in Lisbon on Wednesday. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has dominated the headlines over the last few days after giving a tell-all interview with Piers Morgan in which he slammed Manchester United over their handling of his second spell at Old Trafford.
Ronaldo has since jetted out to meet up with the rest of the Portugal squad ahead of the World Cup, although he will miss their final warm-up game against Nigeria on Thursday night due to a stomach bug. Santos was asked in a press conference by Sky Sports reporter Gary Cotterill if Ronaldo was genuinely too ill to play and responded by bursting into laughter before insisting that the 37-year-old’s excuse was legitimate.
“If it was any other player you would not ask that question,” said Santos. “It’s a fact that he’s suffering from gastroenteritis and any player can struggle if you’re suffering from gastroenteritis. It’s a fact, so he is not ready to play tomorrow.”
Santos was also asked about Ronaldo’s bombshell interview, which is set to be aired in full on Wednesday and Thursday, and insisted that it will not be a distraction for the rest of the Portugal squad as they eye a maiden World Cup triumph in Qatar over the next few weeks.
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“The player decided to give an interview as many others have,” added the Portugal boss. “It’s a personal interview, very personal actually, and we have to respect that. Isn’t Cristiano Ronaldo a free man? It was his decision and we have to understand and respect it.”
“The only thing we talk about is the preparation for Qatar, It does not affect us at all. He is in his room resting and recovering. He won’t practice and won’t be ready for tomorrow’s game either.”
Ronaldo will be expected to play a major role for Portugal over the course of the World Cup and is likely to start their first game against Ghana next Thursday as long as he is fit enough to take part. He will be hoping to break a number of long-standing records during the tournament as he looks to become the first player to find the back of the net at five World Cups, while he can also surpass Eusebio as Portugal’s record scorer at football’s showpiece event with three goals in Qatar.
It remains to be seen whether Ronaldo will be able to block out the noise in order to lead his country to the grand prize, though, with Portugal one of several teams with a strong chance of winning the competition on paper. The one-time European champions have been mentioned among the pre-tournament favourites in recent weeks alongside the likes of Brazil and Argentina, who will be led by Ronaldo’s long-time rival Lionel Messi.
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