DOHA, Qatar (AP) – Cristiano Ronaldo is in the shop window as he starts his fifth and probably last World Cup with Portugal.
Late on Tuesday, the 37-year-old forward was without a club after Manchester United terminated his contract over his explosive interview Criticizing manager Erik ten Hag, the club’s owners and many of his United team-mates.
Ronaldo doesn’t appear to have fielded a new team so his performances at the World Cup may yet persuade potential employers to take the plunge on the five-time World Player of the Year past his prime, but one of the footballers’ most lethal finishers remains on his day.
Speaking before announcing he has left United by mutual consentRonaldo insisted club matters would not affect his performances for Portugal at the World Cup and didn’t spoil the spirit of the team heading into Thursday’s group match against Ghana at the 974 Stadium in Doha.
This may have to be done again now. The motivation to win the World Cup for the first time is probably enough to spur Ronaldo on in Qatar, but impressing a potential new club would be a nice bonus to go by.
“Nothing is going to shake this squad,” Ronaldo said at a news conference in Doha this week.
A loss to Ghana could.
The African nation is the lowest-ranked team at the World Cup at 61st and the big underdog in a group that also includes Uruguay and South Korea.
Still, Saudi Arabia showed that anything is possible at this tournament by beating Lionel Messi’s Argentina against the odds on Tuesday, and Ghana had previously been in a World Cup semi-final with a handball from Luis Suarez – 2010.
The Blacks Stars also have some form players in Thomas Partey – the midfield presenter for Premier League leaders Arsenal – and Mohammed Kudus, who has fired free for Ajax in the Champions League this season.
Portugal start as favorites as coach Fernando Santos has the depth in attack, midfield and full-back and the experience to lead the national team to the 2016 European Championship title.
Concerns remain whether Santos is being too pragmatic given the talent at his disposal, but he remains a popular choice as a manager eight years into his tenure. Santos has shown he is not afraid of making difficult decisions by excluding Ronaldo from a starting team for “tactical reasons” in a Nations League game against Iberian rivals Spain in June.
That is highly unlikely to happen again for the first game of a World Cup, although Ronaldo’s head may be reeling given the turbulence in his club career over the past week.
AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Steve Douglas can be reached at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80