Portugal ‘plays more as a team’ without Cristiano Ronaldo according to international teammate Jose Fonte.
Ronaldo was dropped to the bench for the last-16 clash with Switzerland after manager Fernando Santos was reportedly unimpressed with the striker’s attitude during the group stage defeat to Souuth Korea.
Goncalo Ramos replaced Ronaldo and scored a hat-trick in the 6-1 mauling of the Swiss, leading to suggestions – as has been the case at Manchester United this season – that the team may be better off without him.
Fonte, who was part of the Portugal team which beat France to win Euro 2016, just missed out on a spot on the plane to Qatar and is now presumably in Ronaldo’s bad books after he gave his thoughts on the team without CR7.
“Portugal have the quality to do this in every game, but we have to be honest – just his presence on the field makes the players of the national team unconsciously and automatically have to play for him and always give him the ball,” Fonte told A Bola.
“For being who he is, for what he has done and what he is still capable of doing.
“When he is not there, Portugal plays more as a team and that was seen (against Switzerland). They played fluidly, without a single focal point, everyone contributed and it was beautiful to see.”
Roy Keane has predictably jumped to Ronaldo’s aid amid suggestions he makes teams worse.
“Are footballers supposed to be perfect?” Keane said. “Cristiano Ronaldo had this attitude 10 years ago, but the following game he would score a hat trick, and he was 27 – everyone would forgive him.
“People say that he makes teams worse – Juventus haven’t done anything since he left them a couple of years ago.
“Against Switzerland, the Portugal manager made a correct decision to replace Ronaldo with someone who offered more mobility up front.
“He [Goncalo Ramos] scores a hat trick, and everyone looks straight to Ronaldo. I always thought there could be a chance that Ronaldo wouldn’t start a World Cup knockout game for Portugal – he’s 37.”