Fernando Santos breaks silence on ‘difficult’ decision to bench Cristiano Ronaldo in 2022 World Cup

The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar was filled with memorable moments that fans cherish. Japan’s surprising 2-1 victory over Germany, Richarlison’s remarkable bicycle kick, Morocco’s impressive journey to the semi-finals, and the thrilling 3-3 draw in the finals ultimately won by Argentina in a penalty shootout with Lionel Messi being crowned as a World Champion, are some of the highlights from the tournament.

However, the Qatar World Cup wasn’t a savoury, happy memory for all, especially for Portugal, Fernando Santos and Cristiano Ronaldo, who were knocked out in the quarterfinals by Morocco.

Fernando Santos claims it was tactical decision to bench Cristiano Ronaldo

In the quarterfinals of the WC, the-Portuguese manager Fernando Santos opted not to start their talisman Cristiano Ronaldo. The fact that they would go on to lose the fateful tie to Morrocco and cut short their title dreams, drew wide controversy surrounding Santos’ decision.

Opening up about his decision to bench Cristiano Ronaldo, Fernando Santos said that his decision was tactical. Santos highlighted the spell of barren form Ronaldo was suffering at the time, which coincided with his tumultuous removal from Manchester United.

During the World Cup as well, Ronaldo wasn’t exactly scoring goals left, right and centre. He had just one goal until the quarterfinals while, on the other hand, PSG forward Goncalo Ramos was in much better form, having scored a hattrick against Switzerland which Portugal won 6-1.

Regarding his decision Santos said, “The strategic decision that I had to make was one of the hardest, but I can’t think with my heart, I have to think with my head. It’s not that Ronaldo is no longer a great player, that has nothing to do with it.”

“I do not regret leaving Ronaldo on the bench. It wouldn’t change anything; in terms of the team, I can’t be thinking with my heart. I used the team that played really well against Switzerland and there was no reason to change it,” he further added per Reuters.

Fernando Santos
Ronaldo and Portugal’s campaign ended after they lost 1-0 to Morocco.

Fernando Santos was later sacked from his position and was replaced by ex-Belgium manager Robert Martinez, who had also endured yet another frustrating campaign with Belgium which saw their golden generation blow their last chance to win any silverware away.

Fernando Santos to reunite with Ronaldo in the Saudi Pro League?

Fernando Santos himself was in contention to join the Saudi Pro League as the manager of Al Shabab after he was relieved of his duties as the Portugal NT’s head-coach.

Although the move did not go through, reports of a possible reunion between the five-time Ballon d’Or winner and his former coach in the Saudi Pro League has resurfaced. However, even if Santos does join the Arabian league anytime soon, there are little possibilities that he would be joining the same club as the Portuguese talisman.

In fact, it was Al-Shabab FC who were in talks to sign the former national team coach of Portugal around last summer. Given Ronaldo and Santos’ relationship has evidently sourced after the World Cup, a possible reunion in the same league could help facilitate a reconciliation.

Nevertheless, there has been no concrete statement from the manger regarding a possible move to the middle east. Whether Ronaldo and Santos will reconcile in Arabian soil in the running year, remains to be seen.

Would Portugal have made it to further rounds had Santos started Ronaldo against Morocco? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section.

SZ Desk

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