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Portugal will not be distracted by Ronaldo’s Man Utd saga, coach say

file photo: uefa nations league final portugal v netherlands
There is talk of tension in the squad and worries among fans that the team is too focused on serving captain Cristiano Ronaldo, who at 37 is past his prime

Portugal will not be distracted by the drama surrounding captain Cristiano Ronaldo’s acrimonious departure from Manchester United, coach Fernando Santos said on Wednesday, a day before their World Cup Group H opener against Ghana.

“This is something that has not even been discussed,” Fernando Santos told reporters. “This conversation has not come up at any moment, not even from him.”

Manchester United announced on Tuesday that Ronaldo would leave the club with immediate effect, bringing to a bitter end his second spell at Old Trafford after he said in a media interview that he felt betrayed by the club.

Portugal midfielder Bruno Fernandes, who plays for Manchester United, told the same news conference in Qatar that he had not discussed the situation with his now former club team mate.

“I don’t feel uncomfortable. I don’t have to pick a side,” Fernandes said, adding it had been a dream to play with him in the English Premier League. “We know that nothing lasts forever. It was good while it lasted.”

Santos said it was “critical” that Portugal perform better in the World Cup this year than they did in Russia in 2018 when they were beaten by Uruguay in the first knockout round, starting with Thursday’s encounter with Ghana.

He said he did not want to repeat the experience of Euro 2016 when Portugal draw all of their three group stage games, even if they then went on to win the competition.

Saudi Arabia’s shock win over Argentina on Tuesday showed the risks facing the traditional powerhouse teams at the World Cup as players from smaller countries increasingly played in the world’s top leagues, Santos said.

“This is not just about what happened to Argentina. This has happened to several other teams,” he said.

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