The Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) on Thursday denied that star forward Cristiano Ronaldo had threatened to leave the World Cup squad after being named as a substitute against Switzerland earlier this week.
The 37-year-old striker was dropped from the starting lineup for Tuesday’s last 16 clash with his replacement, Benfica forward Gonçalo Ramos, stepping up to score a sublime hat-trick as Portugal thumped the Swiss 6-1.
Portuguese publication Record reported on Thursday that the striker had previously threatened to leave the squad following a conversation with manager Fernando Santos.
“The FPF clarifies that at no time did the captain of the national team, Cristiano Ronaldo, threaten to leave the national team during the stay in Qatar,” read the statement.
“Every day, Cristiano Ronaldo is building up a unique track record of service to the national team and the country, which must be respected and which speaks to the unquestionable degree of commitment to the national team.”
Ronaldo also took to social media just hours after the FPF statement to reaffirm his commitment to the team, saying: “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 with us!”
It’s still not clear exactly why Ronaldo was dropped to the bench, but his performances of late have been well below the lofty standards he has set for himself throughout his career.
Santos said in his pre-match press conference ahead of the round of 16 that he was unhappy with his captain’s reaction to being substituted in the previous game against South Korea.
It was the first time Ronaldo was left out of the starting lineup for Portugal at a major tournament since Euro 2008.
Without the veteran striker, the Portuguese outfit looked more energetic going forward and the young Ramos gave the Switzerland defenders nightmares with his intensity and quality in the final third.
The win against Switzerland was Portugal’s best performance of the tournament and begs the question as to whether Ronaldo will be able to fight his way back into the starting lineup for his side’s quarterfinal tie against Morocco on Saturday, as it looks to book a semifinal spot for the first time since 2006.
CNN’s Matias Grez and Ben Church contributed to reporting.