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Portugal must decide if they would be better off without Cristiano Ronaldo

Nov 20, 2022

World Cup – Everyone is talking about Cristiano Ronaldo during a press conference with Portugal manager Fernando Santos and their 19-year-old possible future star Antonio Silva.

Next Thursday marks the start of the nation’s World Cup campaign, and expectations are high that a gifted, able group can perform admirably in Qatar. But at the moment, Ronaldo feels like a huge gloss-lipped, slick-haired distraction after his explosive TV interview with Piers Morgan, which made headlines across the world and led Manchester United to consider terminating his contract.

Joao Felix, who many see as Ronaldo’s successor in Portugal but who is reticent and goal-conscious at Atletico Madrid, performs like the Ballon d’Or winner that the main man himself would be proud of with a performance of occasionally beautiful touches, vision, and ingenuity.

Goncalo Ramos, the wildcard pick who came on as a second-half substitute up front, scores a goal and provides an assist in his 23 minutes to continue his impressive play (he has 14 goals in 21 games this season for rival Benfica).

Does Ronaldo being the center of attention benefit the team by deflecting attention from other important issues, such as Santos’ tactics, which are frequently viewed as being too negative, Felix’s underwhelming season with Atletico, or Renato Sanches’ absence from the World Cup squad because he is arguably Portugal’s best player at Euro 2020?

Despite everyone’s love for Ronaldo, his interview has received a lot of harsh criticism. Although the content may not have been about Portugal or the national team, the reaction to it has been largely unfavorable, raising concerns about his motivations as well as the timing—one week before the World Cup began.

How Portugal plays, with or without Ronaldo, is much more important to the 43,000 spectators. They’ve never won the World Cup, and they’ve hardly ever had a team with this much talent.

“For me, he would be on the bench, helping the team in the dressing room and then coming on for the last 20 minutes,” Ricardo adds. “His legs are not the same but there is no better goalscorer than him.”

Santos has plenty of choices. Rafael Leao, Felix, Ramos, Andre Silva, Ricardo Horta, or 2021–22 Serie A MVP Fernandes, Bernardo Silva, and Ruben Neves directing play up front? Lots to think about.

However, Thursday will provide the answers.

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