LISBON, Portugal — Whether or not he plays for Manchester United, Cristiano Ronaldo is still a favorite in Portugal, where the five-time Ballon d’Or winner is still seen as the Seleçao mainstay ahead of the World Cup in Qatar.
The 37-year-old striker, accustomed during his career to playing practically all matches in their entirety, finds himself relegated to the bench at the start of the English championship: “CR7” only came into play to play the last minutes against Liverpool and Southampton. So much so that his future with the Reds Devils appears uncertain until the very end of the transfer window on Tuesday evening.
But, in Portugal, his status as boss of the selection, with which he totals nearly 200 caps and 117 achievements, is still beyond doubt.
For some, the defeat inflicted in June by Switzerland (1-0) in the League of Nations even confirmed that the Seleçao still suffered from its Ronaldo-dependence. Without him, the 2016 European champions created many chances but failed to find the breach.
“Cristiano is Cristiano”
“Even if he doesn’t play, Cristiano is Cristiano. It is an honor to have him in our selection. Even at 37, we can always count on him,” Atlético Madrid striker Joao Félix said last week in an interview with ESPN.
As the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is fast approaching – Portugal will enter the competition on November 24 against Ghana (group H) – others even want to see a potentially beneficial effect in the reduction of the Portuguese captain’s playing time.
“We can see his situation as an opportunity for him to arrive fresh to play in the World Cup,” said a famous Portuguese football commentator, Antonio Tadeia, recently.
“I’m not a fan of the idea that if Ronaldo doesn’t play in Manchester, he shouldn’t play in the selection,” he concluded in one of his podcasts.
Just a year ago, before leaving Juventus Turin to join Manchester United on the last day of the transfer window, Cristiano Ronaldo had already played less at the start of the season… to then become the Red Devils’ top scorer with 24 goals, all competitions combined.
“High level teams”
Insufficient, however, to allow the Red Devils to qualify for the Champions League, a disappointment which largely contributed to the desires of the Portuguese, top scorer in the history of the competition (140) ahead of the Argentinian Leo Messi (125) .
On this requirement, “CR7” finds defenders quite easily in his country.
“Some will not appreciate his behavior, but I think most have understood […]. Cristiano Ronaldo only wants to be in top teams fighting for titles,” commented Daniel Sa, sports marketing specialist at the Portuguese Institute of Administration and Marketing (IPAM), in an interview with Diario. of Noticias.
In recent days, the Portuguese sports press has also not given much importance to rumors predicting a return to Sporting Portugal, his heart club, qualified for the C1, and where Cristiano Ronaldo was trained before his first stay at Manchester from 2003 to 2009.
No significant information has been relayed on this possible transfer, and in particular on the question of a drop in salary which would result from it, given the economic constraints of the Lisbon club.
At Sporting, no player earns more than two million euros a year, while Cristiano Ronaldo earns some 30 million euros a year.
Asked Saturday about the possibility of a return of the superstar, the coach of the “Lions”, Ruben Amorim, was very skeptical.
“Ronaldo is a Manchester United player and I think he will remain so,” said the 37-year-old.