Will Portugal stars step out of Ronaldo’s shadow at the World Cup?

Status: 11/23/2022 6:38 p.m

There are plenty of stars alongside Cristiano Ronaldo in the Portuguese national team. If the team wants to be successful at the World Cup, coach Fernando Santos must above all focus on them.

When Portugal start the tournament against Ghana on Thursday 24 November, the spotlights of the world will of course be on you: Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro, short CR7. Captain, record player, record goalscorer, savior and – this year – trouble spot.

The superstar was at after a disappointing half of the season Manchester United, in which he often found himself on the bench, gave an explosive interview. An interview in which he accused the club and coach of “treason” and saw the blame for the situation elsewhere than with himself. Ronaldo probably had one goal above all with his statements: the final expulsion Manchester United. He was successful with that. The club announced on Tuesday that the striker’s contract had been terminated.

Ronaldo: Suddenly expendable

The problem Ronaldo had at Manchester: At 36, even the best athlete football may have ever had is struggling with signs of aging. CR7 suddenly stopped fighting to be the best player in the world; Worse still, he has even become expendable. Hardly any pressing, few passes that help the team, plus a lot of airs and graces and a poor goal tally: only one goal in ten Premier-League-To play. Ronaldo was a liability for Manchester.

So now he’s going into the World Cup without a club. And even if Ronaldo is not threatened with demotion in the national team like at Manchester United, Portugal is no longer as dependent on their superstar as in previous tournaments. It’s no coincidence that it wasn’t Ronaldo’s goals that secured qualification in the World Cup playoffs. The offensive players who were next to him on the pitch scored: Otávio, Diogo Jota, Matheus Nunes and Bruno Fernandes.

Bernardo Silva: Guardiola’s model student

There are plenty of great footballers in Ronaldo’s shadow, but they’ve mostly shone at their clubs. Above all Bernardo Silva. The 28-year-old is one of Pep Guardiola’s favorite students at Manchester City and also something of a secret star in Portugal. Silva can play almost any position in midfield.

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He is used almost everywhere in Manchester: central, offensive, left, right – Guardiola even let the 1.73 meter man play as a centre-forward. And in Portugal, too, Silva switches between wing and center. Bruno Fernandes is set there. Ronaldo’s former Manchester United team-mate is the pacesetter for the Portuguese national team.

Nunes “one of the best players in the world”

Next to him will be Nunes, whom Guardiola recently called in his slightly exuberant manner “one of the best players in the world” had designated. While that praise might be overstated, Nunes is something of the prototype of the modern midfielder. Good at winning the ball, fast at switching and an incredible urge to break through the opposing ranks as quickly as possible. The 24-year-old loves the no-frills game and usually only needs a few touches of the ball to bring his team closer to the goal.

A full-back from Football Manager

In Nuno Mendes, Portugal coach Fernando Santos has one of the most talented full-backs in the world in his ranks. The 20-year-old joined Paris Saint-Germain in the summer for €38m and it didn’t take long to impress Kylian Mbappe there as well: “He’s exceptional. I only knew him from Football Manager, but what he’s doing here is great.” The defensive fanatic Santos was also convinced by the youngster and will rely on this attacking full-back at the World Cup.

Difficult task for Fernando Santos

There is no longer just one football god in Portugal. It is the job of coach Santos to bring a less monotheistic game system to the pitch. Then the team can go far. The question will be whether he can convince Ronaldo of a style of play that is no longer just tailored to him.

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The feud with Manchester United shows once again that the superstar’s ego is a key component to the success of his teams. Especially since Ronaldo now wants to recommend himself to a new employer at the World Cup. But maybe he’ll come to the realization that the best way to do it now is to put himself at the service of the team.