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Cristiano Ronaldo now needs Portugal a lot more than they need him

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As Portugal ran riot against a pretty decent Switzerland side at the World Cup without the dropped Cristiano Ronaldo, the given narrative was that football was sharing an epiphany. The reality, though, was that it was simply confirming what we have all known for a while now.

The uncomfortable truth, for him at least, is that Ronaldo stopped carrying Portugal a long time ago.

There doesn’t have to be any drama in that, either. Ronaldo is 37-years-old and playing for a major footballing nation. Of course he is no longer the fulcrum of their team. It’s not new information or anything that everyone didn’t already know. The only thing that has really changed is that Fernando Santos has decided he would rather win a World Cup than not upset Ronaldo.

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Because, let’s face it, Portugal didn’t have a hope in hell of winning a maiden World Cup in Qatar with the Ronaldo’s ego constantly sucking the joy and freedom of out their football like some kind of insatiable dementor.

The insinuation is that it was his reaction to being substituted against South Korea that prompted Santos to drop Ronaldo and that may well be the case. However, it was the debacle over the opening goal against Uruguay that really shone a spotlight on what needed to be done.

That is when Ronaldo inadvertently played his hand. He didn’t score. He tried every ab-popping celebration in the book to try to convince everyone he did, but he didn’t and technology proved it. Even then he was unable to accept it and he took his quest to essentially steal a goal from a teammate all the way to FIFA.

Harry Symeou hosts Andy Headspeath, Toby Cudworth & La Liga TV presenter Semra Hunter to look back on the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa – join us!

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If you can’t see the podcast embed, click here to download or listen to the episode in full!

The fact Portugal winning wasn’t enough for him. He couldn’t be happy for his friend and teammate. He couldn’t take pleasure in just being part of it. He had to be it, and nothing else mattered.

Is it any wonder, then, that Portugal appeared to play with a freedom and joy in the 6-1 win over Switzerland that we have seldom seen from them? Suddenly they were no longer slaves to the ego of a teammate. Suddenly they were the stars, not the sidekicks, and the fervour with which they expressed it suggested they have been desperate for some time for the chance to prove it too.

The intention here is not to accuse Ronaldo of anything or disparage him in any way. I am not suggesting some scenario in which he rampages through the Portugal dressing room if people don’t pass to him reigning with an iron fist of terror. Sometimes, though, a presence is simply so gargantuan that it naturally dominates. That is fine when it is also delivering, but those days are gone.

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It is impossible to imagine Portugal attacking with such pace and incision as they did against Switzerland when playing through Ronaldo. In fact, at times in the first three matches at the World Cup, Ronaldo barely got involved at all until he got a sniff of goal.

There is not anything strictly wrong with that. All teams want to get the best out of their best players. The problem is that Ronaldo isn’t Portugal’s best player anymore, and treating him as such is a criminal waste of the masses of talent they have.

The good news is that Portugal appear to have figured that out just in time. The night before, Brazil raised the bar for what will be required to win this World Cup with their scintillating demolition of South Korea.

Goncalo Ramos

Goncalo Ramos scored a hat-trick as Ronaldo’s replacement / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/GettyImages

What Portugal produced against Switzerland, who are nobody’s mugs, was a performance at the same level as that Brazilian one – and it’s a level they cannot reach with Ronaldo in the team.

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Hopefully Ronaldo embraces the role he should have had a long time ago. He can have a huge influence off the bench and as a leader and icon in the dressing room. You wouldn’t put it past him to come on in a tight semi-final or final against tiring defenders and pinch a crucial goal. He can still have his moment.

It’s clear that Portugal have finally accepted that those moments now are the best he has to offer on the World stage. The only question now is whether Ronaldo is prepared to accept it too. Hopefully he does, because the reality is that, if he wants to win a World Cup, he needs Portugal now a lot more than they need him.



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EPL

Cody Gakpo reflects on first month at Liverpool

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Liverpool forward Cody Gakpo has opened up on his first month on the books at Anfield, admitting he is still getting used to Jurgen Klopp’s tactics.

The Dutchman was wanted by a number of elite sides, with Manchester United expected to win the race for his signature, but it was Liverpool who snuck in and agreed to pay an initial £35m to bring Gakpo to England.

The 23-year-old, who made his name as a left winger but has spent time as a striker at Liverpool, is yet to score after four appearances for his new side, but he told club media that is it just a matter of getting to grips with his new surroundings

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“My feeling, personally, is everyone in the team has so much quality,” he said. “That is what I see in training and in phases in the games.

“It is also a part of football, that sometimes things don’t work out exactly the way you want them to. We just have to keep improving, working hard, and the quality will come out. Then, you’re going to see the real Liverpool.”

He continued: “From a football perspective, it’s a new environment on the pitch, with new players and a new team. I can tell it’s a really great group. Every day I am looking forward to working with them, to train hard and to play the games. I am trying to adapt as quickly as possible, to improve every day and in the end show the best version of myself.

“Off the pitch, to be honest, I haven’t been in the city so many times yet. Most of the time I have been in the hotel. I am moving this week, actually. That’s also something I’m looking forward to.”

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Listen now as Scott Saunders hosts Graeme Bailey and Toby Cudworth to discuss the latest transfer news. On today’s agenda: Dusan Vlahovic, Anthony Gordon, Enzo Fernandes, Amadou Onana, Malo Gusto, Nicolo Zaniolo, Pedro Porro, Weston McKennie, Milan Skriniar, Maiximo Perrone & more!

If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!

Gakpo also confessed that he is still trying to adapt to his new role in Liverpool’s team.

“It is a little bit different to what I’m used to,” the Dutchman admitted. “Normally, I have played on the left for almost the past three years.

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“It’s something I can improve, playing in the striker role, and I want to show my quality there. It’s a great position and playing there makes me more complete as a technical player.





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Fulham launch bid Fluminense midfielder Andre

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Fulham have made a bid to sign Fluminense midfielder Andre, 90min understands.

The 21-year-old has quickly established himself as one of Fluminense’s top players and a number of sides across Europe have expressed an interest in luring him away from his homeland in 2023.

Sources have confirmed to 90min that Fulham have approached Fluminense to try and thrash out a deal, but the Brazilian side are reluctant to part ways with their star player during the 2023 campaign.

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Andre, who has been linked with the likes of Barcelona and Liverpool, has spoken out about the interest and insisted his focus remains solely on his current employers.

“Obviously, I’m focused and very happy,” Andre said recently. “I just renewed my contract until 2026.

“It’s normal to get offers, but I’m focused here on Fluminense and having an excellent season.”

Listen now as Scott Saunders hosts Graeme Bailey and Toby Cudworth to discuss the latest transfer news. On today’s agenda: Dusan Vlahovic, Anthony Gordon, Enzo Fernandes, Amadou Onana, Malo Gusto, Nicolo Zaniolo, Pedro Porro, Weston McKennie, Milan Skriniar, Maiximo Perrone & more!

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If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!

Andre’s agent, Carlos Leite, also took to Instagram to confirm that the 21-year-old had agreed to remain with Fluminense until the end of the current campaign, which runs over the entire calendar year.

“Thanks to the great work carried out, Andre entered the radars of some of the biggest European clubs and, with that, he has received several enquiries and some official proposals,” Leite wrote.

“However, the player and Fluminense, through president Mario Bittencourt, sealed an agreement for the midfielder to remain at the club at this time, with all the dedication and commitment, always seeking the best for Fluminense in all competitions.”

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Sporting CP manager makes Pedro Porro admission as Tottenham talks continue

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Sporting CP manager Ruben Amorim has warned Tottenham that he will not take right-back Pedro Porro out of his starting lineup until a transfer has been 100% agreed.

90min understands Tottenham are confident they will get a deal over the line for the 23-year-old eventually, but Sporting’s reluctance to budge from their asking price of Porro’s €45m release clause has led to some lengthy negotiations which are not yet over.

And while Porro is still contracted to Sporting, Amorim will not hesitate to use the right-back and risk an injury which could see the entire move collapse.

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“Porro does not leave before the game,” Amorim said ahead of Saturday’s Allianz Cup final against Porto. “Clubs have to come first, and as far as I know, a player who is able to play and is signed up by a club, he has to go to games.

“I realise that [negotiations] involve a lot of players’ minds, but the indication I have is that Porro is fit, and the most important thing for me, as a manager, is that if he wasn’t there, there would be someone else. The game cannot be played with just one player. Porro is fit. Whatever has to happen will happen, we are prepared for all scenarios.”

Listen now as Scott Saunders hosts Graeme Bailey and Toby Cudworth to discuss the latest transfer news. On today’s agenda: Dusan Vlahovic, Anthony Gordon, Enzo Fernandes, Amadou Onana, Malo Gusto, Nicolo Zaniolo, Pedro Porro, Weston McKennie, Milan Skriniar, Maiximo Perrone & more!

If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!

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Amorim continued: “Is this Porro’s last game at the club? I don’t know. There are a few days left until February 1, then everyone will know if Porro stays or leaves.

“Porro hasn’t left yet. We are scouting, but not everything is easy, you’re in a real hurry to send Porro away!”

Spurs have repeatedly tried to lower Sporting’s asking price for Porro by including at least one player in the deal, but the Portuguese side have been clear about their determination to hold out for the right-back’s release clause – in full.





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