The Qatar World Cup proved to be an eventful chapter for Cristiano Ronaldo. Setting a new record by scoring in five different World Cups, Cristiano Ronaldo was subsequently released from Manchester United.

Following that, he was omitted from Portugal‘s pivotal matches in the prestigious international tournament. Various controversies surrounded the Portuguese captain and then-head coach, Fernando Santos.

After being released by the Red Devils at the end of 2022, the veteran returned to form with Al-Nassr. He had a difficult end to the year as his hopes of leading his squad to a World Cup victory were dashed when they were eliminated in the Quarter-Finals by Morocco in mid-December.

The forward’s display in the group stage of the World Cup was underwhelming, with just one goal in three matches.

Although he scored in the Seleção’s opening match against Ghana, the superstar was held scoreless in subsequent matches against Uruguay and South Korea.

It had even been suggested that he was at fault for Korea’s equalizer, scored by Kim Young-gwon when he turned his back on the ball during a corner. All this prompted the team manager to make the somewhat challenging decision to sit him out.

Fernando Santos benched Ronaldo for key World Cup games

According to reports from Portugal, the 38-year-old said something along the lines of “You’re in a f***ing hurry to sub me off” before departing the field. Even more frustrating for the ex-Real Madrid star was the fact that a Korean player was yelling at him to hurry up as he gave off a frustrated vibe.

The Santos coaching staff decided to bench Ronaldo for a second straight game after he failed to impress during the group round. The courageous decision by the Portugal manager proved to be successful.

Goncalo Ramos, Ronaldo’s replacement, scored a spectacular hat trick and led a sparkling Portugal offensive. They advanced to the Quarter-Finals of Qatar 2022 without their captain after a dominant performance that saw them demolish Switzerland 6-1.

Reports surfaced subsequently that the renowned soccer star had threatened to quit the national team during their brief run in the elimination phase in Qatar. However, Portugal eventually dismissed the rumors.

Once again, Santos opted to bench Ronaldo in the Quarter-Finals match against Morocco, instead starting his replacement, 21-year-old Goncalo Ramos. Even though Ronaldo entered the game as a second-half substitution with his side trailing the tournament’s underdogs, his one shot on goal was easily stopped by the opposition’s goalie.

With their 1-0 victory against Portugal, Morocco made history as the first African nation to advance to the World Cup Semi-Finals.

What did Fernando Santos say of Ronaldo?

The decision to sideline Cristiano Ronaldo has been a persistent source of criticism for Fernando Santos, the former coach of the Portuguese national team. This action effectively ended his time in charge.

Because of the unprecedented benching of Portugal’s best player, Santos has said that they have not communicated since: “We don’t talk since … I don’t know which day, but since we came back from Qatar.

“I had a very strong relationship with Cristiano. Personal and professional. We met at Sporting when he was 19 and that relationship was strengthened from the moment we joined up with the national team. We always got along very well. The expression is a little strong, but almost like father and son, or younger brother and older brother.

“However, I made a tactical decision in Qatar and for that you need to understand a little bit about the background. I have already said that he is the best in the world but at that moment it was very difficult for him. In the second half of 2022 he had six months that were terrible, even from a personal point of view. He wasn’t part of pre-season at United and even when he returned to the squad he was barely used,” Santos said in an interview with A Bola.

Photo credit: IMAGO / Pixsell IMAGO / Sven Simon