Cristiano Ronaldo was reduced to the role of the superstar nobody wants after Portugal followed Manchester United’s lead in deciding they might just be better off without him.
Better off without him they certainly were as Portugal rewarded coach Fernando Santos’s courage in dropping his country’s sporting icon with the complete attacking performance and a 6-1 win over Switzerland that sets up a World Cup quarter-final against Morocco.
Santos was not only vindicated for his decision to axe Ronaldo after publicly criticizing his gestures when he was substituted in the last group game against South Korea, he hit the jackpot as his young replacement Goncalo Ramos looked the real deal in hitting a superb hat-trick.
It has been a bruising time for 37-year-old Ronaldo as first his Manchester United career ended in acrimony following public criticism of the club and now Portugal ditched him from their starting line-up at a major tournament.
Analysts described it as the bravest selectorial call of this World Cup and the biggest of Santos’ eight-year time in charge of Portugal.
They said if Portugal had lost, he would have known who would carry the can for their World Cup exit and it would not have been Cristiano Ronaldo.
Writing by Tersoo Nicholas; Editing by Annabel Nwachukwu