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Santos reveals “normal” conversation with Ronaldo

Portugal head coach Fernando Santos revealed that he had a “normal” conversation with Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of the Round of 16 game against Switzerland when he put Ronaldo on the bench. Ronaldo started on the bench in Portugal’s 6-1 win over Switzerland, only coming onto the field in the closing moments as they secured a quarterfinal spot in the World Cup.

Related: Step aside Ronaldo, Ramos is the new hero

Santos and Ronaldo’s conversation ahead of Switzerland match

“The conversation had to happen, which is completely normal and makes complete sense on my part,” said Santos. “Since I took the helm we needed to talk and have a close relationship with the players – that’s my approach.”

To be discussing a game in which Ronaldo was not in the starting lineup is already a strange thing. The last time Ronaldo wasn’t named in Portugal’s starting XI for a game at a major tournament was in 2008, ending a 31-game streak.

“I explained by saying, ‘look Cristiano, I’m not counting on you from the start of this match, but I’m counting on you obviously for the match. I think you are going to be very important in the game,’” aid Santos.

Santos said he didn’t want Ronaldo to be surprised, so he made sure to have the discussion ahead of the game, knowing that would not ease the sting, but would at least not be a shock. He defended Ronaldo’s displeasure with being benched, knowing how tough of a pill it is to swallow for a player who’s been a superstar his whole career.

“Cristiano, for obvious reasons, was not very happy about it. He has always been a starting player. He said, ‘Do you really think it’s a good idea?’ But we had a normal conversation,” said Santos. “I explained my viewpoints, he accepted. We had a frank and normal conversation.”

Ronaldo threatening to leave Portugal national team?

Reports came out that said Ronaldo was threatening to leave the Portuguese national team after that conversation, but both Ronaldo and Santos denied those rumors.

“This group is too united to be broken by external forces,” said Ronaldo. “A nation too brave to be intimidated by any adversary. This is a true team, that will fight for the dream until the end.”

Santos said that Ronaldo never said anything to him about leaving the national team and expressed frustration about the whole conversation.

“An example of what I just said is what he did during the match. He was warming up with the players even though wasn’t starting. He celebrated all our goals,” said Santos. “And at the end he was the one who invited his colleagues to thank the fans. It’s high time to leave it alone.”

Portugal will face Morocco in the World Cup quarterfinals on Saturday at 10 a.m. ET at Al Thumama Stadium.

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