DOHA, Qatar — Portugal coach Fernando Santos has blasted Cristiano Ronaldo’s reaction to being substituted against South Korea and refused to confirm whether the striker will play against Switzerland on Tuesday.
Ronaldo looked visibly frustrated when he was replaced in the 65th minute of the 2-1 defeat to South Korea on Friday with cameras catching the 37-year-old appearing to say “he’s in a rush to sub me.”
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He was then involved in a verbal altercation with South Korea player Cho Gue-Sung as he left the field and it was only after the game that Santos realised how Ronaldo had reacted to his substitution.
“Let’s split this answer in two,” said Santos when asked about video footage appearing to show Ronaldo criticising the decision to substitute him.
“Right after the match, I spoke in the flash interview, and then went to the press conference, and there I said something I’ll repeat here: on the pitch, I didn’t hear anything. I was too far, and this is why I only saw him arguing with a South Korean player, and nothing else.
“Have I already watched the footage? Yes. I didn’t like it. Didn’t like it at all. From there, it’s things you sort out internally. It was sorted out this way, and now we think about the game tomorrow. Everyone is focused on the game.”
Despite holding clear-the-air talks with Ronaldo, Santos refused to confirm whether he would be named in the team for the round-of-16 tie with Switzerland at Lusail Stadium on Tuesday — potentially his last game at a World Cup.
“I only tell the team who will play in the dressing room,” said Santos, when asked whether Ronaldo would start against Switzerland.
“When we’re in the stadium they find out about the team. And they know that. It’s been like this since I arrived. I will start the team that I think should play. It’s what I’ve been doing my entire life. I’m OK with myself, have no problem. I stay with my conscience.
“Maybe after the match I reflect on it that I might have taken a different decision. But it’s been like this since I arrived in 2014.
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“I only think about what’s good for Portugal and the national team. And the [Ronaldo] topic is done, we sorted it out internally. It’s all sorted out.”
Meanwhile, sources have told ESPN that Ronaldo is nearing an agreement with Saudi Arabian club side Al Nassr following his departure from Manchester United.
There is growing confidence at Al Nassr that a deal can be finalised after Portugal’s World Cup campaign.
“I didn’t speak to him about that,” Santos added. “This morning I spoke to the players, but we didn’t talk about this. I didn’t know anything about this topic, to be fair. When I arrived here [at the press conference] someone told me about the news.
“But I don’t know anything. It’s his decision, it’s his matter, not ours. Cristiano is 100% focused on the World Cup and on helping the team. That’s his focus right now. About other situations, I don’t know anything.”