Manchester United superstar Cristiano Ronaldo had to make do with a second-half cameo as Portugal came from behind to secure a 1-1 draw against Spain in their UEFA Nations League opener in Seville.
Fans were left perplexed with the decision as Twitter exploded. Portugal manager Fernando Santos was naturally quizzed on the reason behind not starting Portugal’s all-time leading goalscorer. He explained that the decision was purely tactical and that he believed the 37-year-old could make an impact off the bench.
“It was a technical and tactical option for this game. It seemed to us the best solution. For the way we wanted to play and approach the game. It has nothing to do with Cristiano’s quality, that’s not even in question,” the 67-year-old said after the game.
“There are moments in the game when you have to think in a different way. We believed that in the second half he could come in and solve the game.”
Andre Silva was selected as starter and Santos added that in his opinion the RB Leipzig striker was more adept at a few things as compared to the United star.
“For this game, I thought it was important to have a player like Andre Silva starting. He is hard-working, closes in-behind, he can do a few things that Cristiano Ronaldo cannot do the same way,” the former defender remarked.
This comment will now further add fuel to the fire regarding Ronaldo’s lack of pressing from the front. This has been a major bone of contention among pundits in England, many of whom have asked new Manchester United boss Erik Ten Hag to be ruthless with regards to the former Real Madrid man. Even interim manager Ralf Rangnick had also pointed out the same issue recently.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner was introduced just after the hour mark but it was fellow substitute Ricardo Horta who struck late on to help the 2016 Euro champions snatch a point from a game they had very little control over.
CR7 entre, le Portugal égalise
⚽️ Ricardo Horta! 🇵🇹#NationsLeague | #ESPPOR pic.twitter.com/WjGhRZJRmp
— UEFA Nations League 🇫🇷 (@EURO2024FRA) June 2, 2022
Alvaro Morata had given Spain the lead and they should have grabbed all three points from a game they completely dominated.
The former Real Madrid star enjoyed a fine personal season back in the Premier League. He scored 18 times in the league for Manchester United and 24 in all competitions but also missed a few games due to a recurring hip issue.
The five-time Champions League winner was not part of the final matchday squad as well and that might have been one of the reasons behind Santos’ decision. He is well aware that resting Portugal’s record cap holder here and there will ensure Ronaldo will be chomping at the bit to make his mark.
A fully-fit and raring to go Ronaldo is a scary proposition and something that will definitely help Portugal make it out of a tricky group which has the likes of Iberian rivals Spain as well as Switzerland and Czech Republic. Portugal next play Switzerland on Sunday while Spain travel to Prague to face the Czech Republic.