DOHA – Cristiano Ronaldo insisted on Monday that his explosive row with Manchester United would not impact Portugal’s chances at the Qatar World Cup as they prepare for their opening Group H match with Ghana.
Last week, superstar Ronaldo lashed out at the English Premier League club and the United manager Erik ten Hag in a TV interview after being relegated to a peripheral role this season. He was also suspended for the 1-1 Premier League draw with Chelsea after refusing to come on as a substitute against Tottenham Hotspur in October.
“I have no doubt that this recent episode, that interview, and other episodes with other players that happen sometimes, can sometimes shake the player but won’t shake the team,” Ronaldo said at a press conference on Monday.
“In my life, the best timing is always my timing. I don’t have to think about what other people think. The players know me really well for many years and know the type of person I am.
“It’s an ambitious group that is hungry and focused. So I’m sure it (the interview) won’t shake the changing room’s concentration and focus.”
Ronaldo, who is set to start his fifth and likely final World Cup, said frosty interaction with his teammate for club and country Bruno Fernandes, along with images of him grabbing Manchester City fullback Joao Cancelo by the head, had been being overblown by the media.
“In these final stages of competitions, there’s always those type of moments,” added the 37-year-old.
“We were just playing around, I have a great relationship with him. I was asking him, because his plane was late, I asked him if he came by boat.
“The same thing happened with Cancelo. He was a bit sad during training and I grabbed him by the neck and told him ‘Come on, you’ve got this’, that’s what I said. And then it became another controversy at your end.
“The whole atmosphere is excellent, it’s bulletproof and iron-clad. The next player who comes here, you don’t have to ask about that, don’t talk about me, you don’t have to talk about Cristiano Ronaldo... help them out, ask them about the World Cup.”
Portugal open their Group H campaign against Ghana on Thursday before facing Uruguay and South Korea.
After missing Thursday’s friendly 4-0 win over Nigeria in Lisbon due to a stomach bug, Ronaldo, who led his side to Euro 2016 triumph, said he is in perfect shape to play.
“I feel great, I have recovered my best shape, we’ve had good training sessions, the team and myself, I’m ready to start the World Cup in the best possible way,” he said.
“I feel that this Portugal squad has amazing potential. I think we can win for sure, but we need to focus on the next game. So, it’s focusing on Ghana, get a win and go from there.
“We will see in the end who the best team is, but I believe Portugal is the best team in this World Cup. But we need to show it on the pitch.
Ronaldo, who made his national senior debut in 2003, is the all-time top goalscorer in men’s international football with 117 strikes in 191 games.
The superstar hitman recently appeared in a Louis Vuitton advertisement alongside long-time rival, Argentina forward Lionel Messi, where the pair were pictured playing a game of chess.
“I would like to be the player to checkmate Messi. It happened in the chess game and if it did in football, it would be magic,” Ronaldo said with a smile.
Paris Saint-Germain star Messi has won seven Ballon d’Or awards and many consider him to be the best player of all-time.
“Even if I win the World Cup, that debate will continue,” said Ronaldo, who has five Ballon d’Or titles.
“Some people like me more, some people like me less, like in life, some like blondes, some like brunettes. The World Cup will always be a showcase.
“But if you tell me you won’t win any more tournaments in your career, I would still be happy, given all I have achieved.” AFP, REUTERS