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Only in Cristiano Ronaldo’s shoes not to be: CR7 at career low point

Probably no one would want to know what it’s like to be Cristiano Ronaldo right now. The Lusitanian star was a reserve at a final tournament for Portugal for the first time since 2008, and his team made the match of the tournament at the World Cup in Qatar, winning 6-1 against Switzerland in the ‘last 16’. What’s more, his replacement Goncalo Ramos, making his first World Cup start, scored the first hat-trick of the Qatar World Cup. Ronaldo is probably crying with one eye and laughing with the other…

Cristiano Ronaldo came on as a substitute against Switzerland in the Round of 16 match at Qatar 2022, ending a run of 31 consecutive starts at major tournaments for Portugal, and to make it even harder for him ahead of the quarter-finals, his replacement, Gonçalo Ramos, did in 17 minutes what the striker had failed to do in 541 minutes: score in the knockout stages of a World Cup, scoring a hat-trick.

And this despite the fact that the Madeira-born striker was, a priori, the main weapon to attack Switzerland. His five goals in the last two meetings with the Swiss were his guarantee, but Fernando Santos was not of the same opinion. Not this time…

In his pre-match press conference, he had already warned that Cristiano Ronaldo’s reaction after replacing him against South Korea was far from to his liking.

“First of all, in the ‘flash’ interview, I didn’t hear anything. Later, I saw it on TV and I didn’t like it at all. The problems are solved internally. That’s it, I’m over it, everyone is focused and available for the Switzerland game. I’ll announce the starting eleven at the stadium. I always do that. I consider the problem solved and everyone is available,” he explained.

But even so, no one expected the replacement of the great Portuguese star, who is going through one of the most difficult moments of his sporting career, if not the most difficult. On 22 November, Manchester United announced that Cristiano’s contract with the Red Devils had been terminated after the ‘7’ made harsh statements about the club in an interview with Piers Morgan.

The Portugal national team, where he was an institution, seemed to be his refuge, but even here doubts began to arise. His penalty goal in the first game against Ghana did not spare him the criticism of whether or not he would remain in the starting line-up. Until Fernando Santos benched him.

And he did it at the moment of truth, when Portugal had no safety net left, in the round of 16 at Qatar 2022. It was the first time since 15 June 2008 that CR7 was only a reserve for his national team at a major tournament. 31 consecutive matches in a row as a starter. Interestingly, the previous one was also against Switzerland.

A situation that did not allow him to pay off one of his debts in a legendary career. Cristiano has not scored in any of his World Cup knockout matches. Six matches, 514 minutes, and no goals. Figures the 21-year-old Gonçalo Ramos, chosen by the Portuguese coach to replace him despite playing only 10 minutes previously, two against Ghana and eight against Uruguay, has been quick to surpass.

Meanwhile, on the bench, Fernando Santos hid that smile of his when his decisions turn out to be inspired, while behind him, not warming up and preparing to take the field, sat a Cristiano Ronaldo who saw first-hand how hard it will be for him to start in the quarter-finals. Who would dare to keep Gonçalo Ramos as a substitute now after his performance?

Especially as in the 24 minutes Cristiano was on the pitch he had no chance to redeem himself, apart from a goal disallowed for a clear offside. However, the magnetism he generates is comparable, as far as his career goes, only to Leo Messi. Most acclaimed, with the crowd demanding his entrance when the game was already settled and celebrating a free-kick, from distance, in Portugal’s favour as if it were another goal.

Cristiano Ronaldo is only 37 and has said, not once, that he intends to play until at least 40. At the moment, he has no club team and his statue has begun to chip away at the national team too. With his career in a shadow, Ronaldo also has to live through the “drama” of seeing his eternal rival, Lio Messi, have an outstanding season with his club team as well as a World Cup in Qatar. Leo does not share his fate in the Argentina national team, being more decisive and important than ever for La Albiceleste.

Ronaldo has a choice to make now. Either shake it off and return to form as close as possible to that he had until the end of last season, or assume that, because of his declining form, he will have to get used to a secondary role from now on, wherever he plays next. The second option is difficult, because ambition has always been the driving force of his career, and an “extra” role has never suited him. But if he suddenly became more modest in his expectations and demands, he wouldn’t be Cristiano.

It remains to be seen how Cristiano Ronaldo will resolve this paradox, both with the national team, where he said he wanted to play at least the European Championship in 2024, and with his club team, if he can find one…

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