Danilo Pereira has insisted ‘Portugal don’t just play for Cristiano Ronaldo’ after the Manchester United star’s bombshell interview overshadowed their World Cup preparations.
The 37-year-old took aim at United manager Erik ten Hag and the club’s owners, the Glazer family, in a revealing interview with Piers Morgan earlier this week.
His comments are likely to have ended his second spell at Old Trafford and have also damaged his legacy at the club.
But they’ve also provided an unwelcome distraction as Portugal build-up to the tournament in Qatar.
That was evident in the frosty handshake United team-mate Bruno Fernandes gave Ronaldo as he reported for World Cup duty on Monday.
There was also a bizarre altercation in training as Ronaldo grabbed Joao Cancelo by the head in order to defuse a situation.
But while Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Pereira backed Ronaldo, he pointed out that Portugal were a team and not just one individual.
“There will be criticism because Cristiano is a player who sells a lot, he is a player who is talked about every day,” Pereira said.
“If he’s bad, people will talk. If he’s okay, people will talk. So, we within the group see this naturally.
“It’s normal for Cristiano, being the strongest point of the national team, to have more spotlight on him.
“We’re going to throw more balls at him, we’re going to try to get him to score goals and he will also demand that.”
He added: “It’s natural that there is this conversation because people think we play for Cristiano, but that’s not the case. We play to win games.”
Portugal play a warm-up friendly against Nigeria today before heading off to Qatar, where their first group fixture is against Ghana on November 24.
Joao Mario tried to insist the encounter between Ronaldo and Fernandes in the Portugal dressing room was just a joke and there was no rift between the pair.
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