Portugal losing faith in Ronaldo as quickly as Man Utd?

FT Desk
  • FT Desk
  • Updated: 27 Sep 2022 06:57 BST
  • 3 min read
FT Desk Updated: 27 Sep 2022 06:57 BST 3 min read
Cristiano Ronaldo for Portugal, 2021/22

Cristiano Ronaldo is rightly regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, but now Portugal's most popular international newspaper has posited that the national team should use him less.

Ronaldo has endured a difficult start to the season at Manchester United, with Erik ten Hag dropping the Portuguese club legend in favour of Marcus Rashford in recent weeks.

Ronaldo had wanted to find a new club in the summer after United failed to qualify for the Champions League, but there were no viable takers. The Red Devils have since put together a four-match winning run in the Premier League, with Ronaldo watching on from the bench.

And now his struggles have extended to the national team. Ronaldo is Portugal's record goalscorer with 117 goals in 190 appearances, but he drew a blank as Fernando Santos's side went top of UEFA Nations League Group A2 with a 4-0 win over the Czech Republic on Saturday.

Ronaldo's United teammates Diogo Dalot and Bruno Fernandes were on target in Prague, as was Liverpool's Diogo Jota, and A Bola, Portugal's most-read sports paper internationally, is beginning to turn against the long-time talisman.

A Bola: 'Something's changed'

"It's not just Ronaldo and 10 more!" screamed their headline. They then acknowledged the 37-year-old's previous strength before saying: "At the beginning of 2022/2023, however, something seems to have changed. Portugal remain great, but CR7 is going through a phase of lesser brilliance."

Ronaldo has now failed to score in three games for Portugal, stretching back to their 4-0 win over Switzerland in June, and Ricardinho - effectively Ronaldo's futsal equivalent who scored 141 goals in 187 games for Portugal before retiring last year - suggested recently that he should retire.

"I stepped down from the national team so the younger generation could take over and today I'm sure it was the right decision," he said pointedly at Portugal's recent Golden Globes - or Quinas de Ouro - awards ceremony.

Ronaldo is already a national treasure, and a United legend for good measure, but Father Time is an undefeated world champion, and it would appear Ronaldo has some reflecting to do ahead of what already looks like the Autumn of his career.