Portuguese football journalist Pedro Sepulveda has been speaking about the mood in Cristiano Ronaldo’s homeland surrounding the Manchester United forward’s explosive interview; “He feels he will perform well enough at the World Cup to then get a move in January”
Home, sweet home.
Those are the words on the front page of Portuguese daily publication O Jogo in reference to a smiling Cristiano Ronaldo being back in Lisbon, away from the media spotlight of the baying British press.
Ronaldo, in the first clips released by TalkTV from a 90-minute interview with Piers Morgan, has accused Manchester United of betraying him and doubting the striker over his daughter’s illness which made him miss pre-season.
The Portuguese press have been providing their take on the story.
The 37-year-old has insisted his “absolute focus” is on the World Cup with Portugal amid the ongoing furore in which he claimed United were trying to force him out of the club and criticised boss Erik ten Hag.
The World Cup gets under way on Sunday, although Euro 2016 winners Portugal, who are in Group H, do not begin their campaign until November 24.
But what have the papers been saying across the Iberian Peninsula?
O Record choose to have the Ronaldo ‘global controversy’ only as a side bar on their front page, preferring to focus on a Benfica story regarding their chances of winning the Champions League.
A Bola mischievously juxtapose the same interview with Benfica manager Roger Schmidt in which he is quoted as saying, “Our biggest challenge is to keep playing good football” alongside the teasing question, “And now Ronaldo?” But there is no suggestion the former Sporting player could make a sensational move to their city rivals.
Portuguese football journalist Pedro Sepulveda has been speaking about the video released by the national team in which Bruno Fernandes and Ronaldo appear to have a frosty exchange…
What was said between Ronaldo and Fernandes?
“The national team put out images without sound on social media. The images look cold because Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes see each other for the first time, they are not smiling. Ronaldo was the first to arrive at the national team camp while Fernandes was the last despite both playing for the same club.
“So Ronaldo made a joke to Bruno Fernandes, asking him if he came by boat and not by plane. So that was the only thing they were talking about. There is no problem between the pair and both of them are focused on the World Cup.”
Is that just part of the national team media machine using positive spin?
“I don’t think there is a problem because naturally the national team would want to defend Cristiano Ronaldo from the interview so why else would they post the video? They want all the focus to be just on the national team.
“If there was a real problem between Ronaldo and Fernandes, I’m 100 per cent sure the national team would never share these images.”
Has the story affected the mood in the camp?
“I believe the vibe is still good. All the players are smiling at training. If there is talk about a rift between two players, it does not filter into the group.
“There is now a nice mixture of experienced players and really talented young players, and they are helping each other to have a good tournament in Qatar.”
Why has Ronaldo timed this interview just before the World Cup?
“The timing of the interview wasn’t innocent. Ronaldo knew that Sunday was his last day at Manchester United before leaving for the World Cup. After that, he had to come to the national team so he has this huge break.
“Right now, he doesn’t have to deal with the English media and he doesn’t have to be in Manchester so this was an ‘all-in’ from Ronaldo because he feels he will perform well enough at the World Cup to then get a move in January.
“In the last transfer window, there were no big clubs interested in signing Ronaldo – I’m not sure why – but he believes that with a good World Cup, the landscape will be different during the winter transfer window.”
Could it be that he returns to Sporting?
“Whenever there is talk of Ronaldo leaving a club, there is almost always someone in the media connecting him with a return to Sporting Lisbon. I’ve tried to clarify this having spoken to those at the club, and it is impossible.
“Even with the incentive of working under a young, talented Portuguese coach like Ruben Amorim… Ronaldo doesn’t fit into his project.”
Do Portuguese fans still love him?
“Ronaldo is always happy when he comes away with the national team.
“The Portuguese fans don’t connect the words he has for Manchester United to the icon he is for the Portuguese players.
“We’re talking about one of the best Portuguese players of all time, so I don’t think it’s had an impact with the fans.”
Mario: Ronaldo always happy with the national team
Portugal midfielder Joao Mario says Ronaldo has been unaffected by the recent media reports about him and says he is always happy when he joins up with his country for international duty.
“I was there and saw everything, it was a funny moment that was misinterpreted on the outside,” a laughing Joao Mario told a news conference in Lisbon on Tuesday.
“It was a joke between them because Bruno (Fernandes) was late, one of the last to arrive, and Cristiano (Ronaldo) asked him if he had came by boat.
“I understand that the images can be interpreted in many ways, but it was a joke between them. They have a great relationship because they play together, I saw them all day yesterday. There is no problem between them.”
Joao Mario does not believe Ronaldo’s interview will be a distraction in the changing room and that the time he spends with the national team is a safe space for him.
“There is no added pressure,” Joao Mario said. “We are all used to dealing with great pressure because we play for big clubs.
“Being in the World Cup is a dream for many and only carries more responsibility. I do not believe that the interview adds more pressure on him or anyone else.”
United will take legal advice before deciding how to respond to Ronaldo, but will await the release of the full interview later this week before taking any decision.
Ten Hag and the United players are extremely disappointed with the manner and timing of Ronaldo’s interview.
The club only found out about the interview as they were preparing to fly back from London on Sunday evening following their 2-1 win over Fulham and they do not understand why he has said what he has said.
They are hugely disappointed that he would disrespect the club, his manager and team-mates in this way and United are likely to consider all their options now regarding the player.
Ronaldo was told on Thursday that he would not be in the starting XI against Fulham but he would have been in the squad. He told the club he was ill.
Ronaldo: Absolute focus on Portugal
Ronaldo has joined up with the Portugal squad for the World Cup and insisted his “absolute focus” is on the national team amid the furore over his interview on Piers Morgan Uncensored.
Ronaldo said on Twitter: “Total and absolute focus on the work of the national team.
“A united group, towards a single objective: to fulfil the dream of all Portuguese people!”
Jamie Carragher speaking:
“I just thought the comments were bizarre. They were bang out of order considering the timing of it: On the back of Manchester United fans being delighted after getting a winning goal at Fulham with the last kick of the game.
“It should give them excitement over the next month for when the league starts again. They should be enjoying themselves and then the Ronaldo interview comes out and boom – it’s about negativity. Not the team, not the manager – it’s about Cristiano Ronaldo. And it’s been like that since he’s come back. It’s basically been the Cristiano Ronaldo show.
“At times that’s been good on the pitch, last season he got a lot of goals. But this season he’s not involved and he’s craving the attention that he can’t get because he’s not on the pitch. The only way he’s going to do that is by causing trouble and that was exactly his intention with the interview.
“He wants to be sacked, that’s obvious. He told the club in the summer that he wanted to leave, which is football – these things happen. There were no takers, maybe because of his wages or the price Manchester United wanted. I think he knows that’s going to be the same in this next transfer window and maybe the following summer and he is now trying to be sacked or wants to leave on a free. That’s the only way he’s going to get out.
“And I think United should sack him or move him on by giving him a free transfer. At the moment, they’re trying to build something that is not trying to win the Premier League or the Champions League right now. The manager will want to push for those honours in the next two or three years and Ronaldo is not going to be around.
“He is going to be a distraction, this will not go away. As soon as a player comes out and says he doesn’t respect the manager, how is that going to work when he walks into the first day of the post-World Cup season? It can’t work that going forward – there will be people taking pictures, we will be asking about Ronaldo to the manager in interviews for Sky. United don’t need the hassle.”