Cristiano Ronaldo is able to withstand any pressure to be the leader of Portugal, says Fernando Santos.
Ronaldo, the record holder in the history of international football, came to the World Cup with an uncertain future after a provocative interview with Piers Morgan.
The 37-year-old has since left Manchester United and is playing as a free agent for the first time in his career.
Ronaldo scored Portugal’s first goal in their 3-2 win over Ghana on Thursday, becoming the first male player to score in five separate World Cup finals.
And Santos shrugged off the suggestion that Portugal was putting too much pressure on their captain’s shoulders.
“We have players who are more visible than others and they need to deal with this, with high priority and pressure,” Santos said at a press conference ahead of Portugal’s second Group H game against Uruguay.
“They express themselves in a certain way. There are players who are more extroverted, there are more introverted, the most important thing is that they play as a group, play together as a team.
“As for Cristiano, I have known him for many years, ever since he was 19, we have other players who share the same personality.
“Little by little he has gained experience and he understands the pressure, but we also consider other players, not just Cristiano Ronaldo.”
5 – Cristiano Ronaldo became the first player to score five goals at different stages of the World Cups (2006, 2010, 2014, 2018, 2022). Limitless. pic.twitter.com/w6noDKxoVR
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 24, 2022
Another experienced player in the Santos team is Ronaldo’s former Real Madrid teammate Pepe. The 39-year-old centre-back could potentially play against Uruguay after Danilo suffered a rib injury in the victory over Ghana.
“He’s a monster, Pepe is a monster,” Santos said of the defender. “Someone who plays a huge role, there’s no doubt about it.”
Ronaldo started Joao Felix in the second match against Ghana, although Santos also has Milan star Rafael Leao, who scored with a first touch after coming on as a substitute.
Asked if he would consider forming a trio together, Santos replied: “Of course, we may not have come here with labels of one, two or three starters.
“We will build them according to our needs, I am serious. We have a choice and no player will be excluded, but we must look at it not as an individual, but as a team.
“This is what we did against Ghana. In the first half we played very well, Ghana could not enter our zone. In the last 30 minutes we should have been more aggressive because I know what my players are capable of. Perhaps we were overconfident, but we can be sure if we are more aggressive.
“Our advantage is that we have a lot of players that we can use. Our players can play for free, the only thing I ask them is to follow my instructions. We will not keep our players on a short leash – we will let them go.”