World Cup: Ronaldo and Fernandes’ awkward handshake just a joke, says Portugal’s Mario

Cristiano Ronaldo (right) and Bruno Fernandes during a Manchester United match against West Ham on Oct 30, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

LISBON – Cristiano Ronaldo is “always happy” when playing for Portugal and his problems at Manchester United will not damage the country’s prospects at the World Cup, international teammate Joao Mario said on Tuesday.

The superstar forward blasted United in an explosive TV interview days before the start of the tournament in Qatar, saying he felt “betrayed” by the club and does not respect manager Erik ten Hag.

Ronaldo, 37, is preparing to lead Portugal at what will almost certainly be his last World Cup, where they are in Group H with Uruguay, South Korea and Ghana.

“He’s always happy when he is in the national team,” Benfica midfielder Mario told reporters after the squad trained in Lisbon.

“I saw him yesterday and he was quite fine as always. As he has said before, for him it is always a pleasure to be here. He’s totally focused on the national team.

“I don’t see a problem with the timing (of the interview) because everyone always speaks about Cristiano, so it’s fine for us.”

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has been a peripheral figure for United this season under ten Hag.

He was disciplined after refusing to come on as a substitute in a 2-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur in October. But the attacker had returned to the side in recent weeks and even captained the Red Devils in a 3-1 loss at Aston Villa.

However, he was absent from the squad for Sunday’s 2-1 victory over Fulham in United’s final match ahead of a six-week break for the World Cup before the explosive interview with TalkTV.

Mario also commented on an awkward handshake between Ronaldo and his Portugal and United teammate Bruno Fernandes.

The cold interaction between the pair on Monday was caught on camera and went viral on social media, sparking talk of a rift following Ronaldo’s interview.

The video shows Fernandes touching Ronaldo’s arm as he walked past him in the changing room, prompting an offer of a handshake which was eventually accepted, but only briefly, with little eye contact between the two.

“I was there and saw everything, it was a funny moment that was misinterpreted on the outside,” said Mario. “It was a joke between them because Bruno (Fernandes) was late, one of the last to arrive, and Cristiano (Ronaldo) asked him if he had come by boat.

“I understand that the images can be interpreted in many ways but it was a joke between them. They have a great relationship because they play together, I saw them all day yesterday. There is no problem between them.” AFP, REUTERS

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