Soccer  

Ronaldo’s interview won’t derail World Cup

Cristiano Ronaldo’s rift with Manchester United will not derail Portugal’s World Cup campaign, according to Benfica midfielder Joao Mario.

The five-time Ballon d’Or or winner accused United of trying to force him out of the club in the summer in an explosive TV interview on Sunday, just one day before he arrived to the national team training camp in Oeiras, Lisbon.

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“I don’t see a problem with the timing [of Ronaldo’s interview] so it’s fine for us,” Joao Mario told a news conference on Tuesday. “I don’t think it puts further pressure on him or on us. We’re used to dealing with great pressure.

“It’s not the first time that a player comes to the national team having a problem with his club. One of the advantages is that we put everything to the side when being here. When we get to the national team, it’s another working group and we try to focus on what’s most important.

“The headlines are always about him [Ronaldo]. Honestly, every time we come to the national team the first questions asked are always about Ronaldo.

“The focus is always on him, and we are used to that.”

Sources have told ESPN that Ten Hag has told United bosses that Ronaldo should not play for the club again after his interview.

Ronaldo also hit out at United’s owners in the interview and said he had no respect for Ten Hag, leaving his future at the club uncertain.

The 37-year-old was dropped by United coach Erik ten Hag as punishment after refusing to come on as a substitute in a win over Tottenham Hotspur in October.

Ronaldo is on the cusp of playing in his fifth World Cup after being named in Portugal’s squad for the 2022 World Cup.

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The all-time men’s international goalscorer with 117 goals, Ronaldo was always expected to be included although he is in the midst of his most difficult campaign.

The Portugal captain has scored just three goals in 16 games across all competitions and started in just four Premier League games.

Ronaldo is under contract with United until June 2023 and has an option to extend it for a further year. He was the first player to step onto the pitch in Monday’s training session with Portugal and was all smiles.

“He is always happy when he is with national team,” Joao Mario said of Ronaldo. “I saw him yesterday and he is fine as always when he arrives here. “He is totally focused on the national team, he is going to be a big help for us at the World Cup.”

Portugal begin their World Cup campaign on Nov. 24 against Ghana.