IAN HERBERT: Portugal shut out the noise of the Ronaldo circus

IAN HERBERT: Portugal shut out the noise of the Cristiano Ronaldo circus… with Bruno Fernandes playing down rift claims and manager Fernando Santos insisting furore does not bother squad

  • Cristiano Ronaldo was kept out of the press conference he ought to have given
  • Instead it was Fernando Santos and Bruno Fernandes who spoke to the press 
  • Fernandes says that Ronaldo’s United exit won’t make things ‘uncomfortable’
  • Portugal get their World Cup campaign underway against Ghana on Thursday

Cristiano Ronaldo was kept out of the press conference he ought to have given, on the eve of his fifth World Cup, but he was the elephant in the room.

Relentless questions about him left Portugal coach Fernando Santos frustrated and Bruno Fernandes smiling wryly.

The Portuguese FA have been going to great lengths to deflate the Manchester United controversy their captain has brought by getting the players to draw each other. Ronaldo was highly amused by his pencil sketch of Pepe. But Fernandes provided a hint of why his former United team-mate ego’s might have its shortcomings.

Cristiano Ronaldo was kept out of the press conference he ought to have given on Wednesday

Instead it was Portugal coach Fernando Santos and Bruno Fernandes who spoke to the press 

Ronaldo’s opening gambit to Fernandes, after they met up at the team base in Lisbon last week, was about how he had arrived faster in his personal jet and whether his compatriot had travelled by boat.

‘Actually, I was in a plane for two hours,’ Fernandes said. ‘I was not in the same mood, and he made a joke. He has his plane and this time I wasn’t able to join him. When we can we travel together but when you take scheduled flights there are delays. He could laugh. I couldn’t.’

There was intrigue surrounding a seemingly frosty reunion between the two in Lisbon. But if there was an issue, Fernandes made a good job of masking it during a discussion in which he called his compatriot Cris.

Fernandes appeared to give Ronaldo a frosty reception after his interview with Piers Morgan

However, Fernandes (above) cleared things up shortly after the video was released online 

‘I don’t feel uncomfortable. I don’t have to pick a side,’ he said. ‘He has always been an inspiration to me and it was a dream come true for me playing with him at United but nothing lasts for ever. It was good while it lasted. Now he has taken a decision with his life. Every decision has to be respected, whether we agree or not.’

Ronaldo’s future beyond this tournament is uncertain but he would like a Champions League club to build on his scoring record in the competition. His agent Jorge Mendes has been meeting clubs.

Chelsea owner Todd Boehly is in Qatar but manager Graham Potter is believed not to be keen. Those advising Boehly are thought to be unimpressed by Ronaldo’s conduct in giving an interview criticising United last week so a move to Stamford Bridge seems unlikely.

If he stays in England, the 37-year-old will be banned for two games for slapping a phone out of an Everton fan’s hand, following the ruling of an FA independent panel on Tuesday.

He was adamant that Ronaldo’s United exit won’t make things ‘uncomfortable’ for Portugal

Fernandes and his Portugal team-mates will get underway against Ghana on Thursday

Sporting Lisbon would provide a pace of football in which Ronaldo can thrive but their owner has previously said it will not happen.

Before any of that becomes a consideration, Ronaldo is vying with Lionel Messi to be at the centre of a narrative about winning a World Cup at the fifth attempt and twilight of his career, beginning with this afternoon’s match against Ghana.

Ronaldo will be keen for Portugal to avoid an opening game upset like that suffered by Messi’s Argentina against Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.

And coach Santos, more than anyone, will be desperate for the circus around his star player to die down. He said: ‘We always hear huge noise about things going on and Cristiano being Cristiano it happens. I don’t believe what he has done and decided will have any impact on the Portuguese team.’

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