Portuguese Football Federation denies Cristiano Ronaldo threatened to leave World Cup

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DOHA, Qatar — Portugal’s Football Federation has denied a report that Cristiano Ronaldo threatened to leave Qatar after being relegated to the bench in the team’s round of 16 matchup against Switzerland.

Record, a Portuguese publication, reported that the 37-year-old superstar told manager Fernando Santos that he would quit after finding out that he would not start for the national team for the first time since the 2006 World Cup.

Ronaldo, Portugal’s captain for the last decade, started all three previous group stage matches and scored on a penalty kick in the opening game against Ghana. In the round of 16, however, he was replaced by 21-year-old Goncalo Ramos, who scored a hat trick in Portugal’s 6-1 victory.

The FBF issued a lengthy statement Thursday, refuting the report.

"The FPF clarifies that at no time did the captain of the national team, Cristiano Ronaldo, threaten to leave the national team during the internship in Qatar," the federation said in a statement.

"Cristiano Ronaldo builds a unique track record every day at the service of the national team and the country that must be respected … in fact, the level of commitment of Portugal’s most capped player was once again demonstrated – if necessary – in the victory over Switzerland in the round of 16 of the 2022 World Cup.

"... The national team – players, coaches and FPF structure – is, as from day one, fully committed and enthusiastic in building what the country wants to be the best-ever participation of Portugal in a World Cup."

In what could be surmised as a response to this report and other stories surrounding Ronaldo throughout this World Cup, the legendary footballer tweeted, "A group too united to be broken by external forces. A nation too brave to be afraid of any adversary. A team in the true sense of the word, who will fight for the dream to the end! Believe us! Go ahead, Portugal!"

However, Ronaldo’s role moving forward has yet to be "defined," Santoso said, especially given the performance Ramos gave in his first World Cup start.

"I have a close relationship with him and always have," Santos said. "I’ve known him since he was 19 and our relationship has only grown.

"Ronaldo and I never misinterpret the human aspect of manager and player in a match. He will always be a very important player to have on this team."

When asked more directly if Ronaldo would play in the quarterfinal against Morocco on Saturday (10 a.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app), Santos said, "Ronaldo will definitely [be involved]. All players on the bench can be used. If they are not in the starting lineup, they can play later."

"It is important to look at the example of this player’s history," Santos added. "He is one of the best players in the world. He is our captain. But I think about this team collectively … if we can improve some things, we’re on the right track [to keep advancing in the tournament], I would say."  

Ronaldo celebrated all six of Portugal’s goals with his teammates and nearly scored one himself late in the game, but it was called offside.

Additionally, fans chanted "Ronaldo, Ronaldo" in the second half, urging Santos to play him. He was eventually substituted in the 73rd minute, coming in for Ramos, and the crowd erupted with cheers that were arguably louder than for any of Portugal’s goals that night.

Portugal plays Morocco on Saturday in the quarterfinal; the winner will face the winner of England-France in the semifinal next week.

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Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and soccer for FOX Sports. She previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of "Strong Like a Woman," published in spring 2022 to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @LakenLitman.


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