Cristiano Ronaldo was seen leaving the pitch alone after Portugal’s stunning 6-1 victory over Switzerland on Tuesday night while his team-mates continued to celebrate their stunning performance on the field.
The Portuguese captain made his own way to the dressing room following the game, having been left out of the starting line-up by coach Fernando Santos.
Portugal seemingly had no issues without the forward, with his side 5-1 up in his absence, after being left on the bench in a knockout game for his country for the first time since 2008.
Cristiano Ronaldo left the pitch on his own after the final whistle with his Portugal team-mates still celebrating
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner made his own way down the tunnel after the final whistle
The former Manchester United star walked straight past the media boards and film crews
In a clip released after Portugal blew away Switzerland at the Lusail Stadium, Portuguese players can be seen applauding on the pitch as they soak up the acclaim of their fans following a sensational display.
But apart from his colleagues is Ronaldo, who is slowly making his way across the pitch towards the Portuguese tunnel.
The 37-year-old proceeds to exit the pitch on his own, and notably his team-mates neglect to join him as they celebrate jubilantly as a group.
Fernando Santos left the forward out for the first time at a major tournament since 2008
Prior to kick-off much of the talk about Portugal’s last 16 clash naturally concerned the five-time Ballon d’Or winner, as debate raged over why he had been dropped from the side.
Ronaldo’s entrance to the pitch had been greeted with loud cheers in the crowd.
Some – including Jamie Carragher – were of the opinion that his omission came as a result of his poor performances in the tournament so far.
Despite becoming the first male player to score at five World Cup tournaments, his only goal came from a dubious penalty call against Ghana in the group stages.
He had also been included in Sofascore’s worst team of the group stage ratings, where he was placed up front with an average rating of 6.37 across his three matches.
But others have pointed to the fact that there appeared to be an altercation between Ronaldo and coach Santos as he was hooked against South Korea in Portugal’s final group game.
Santos left the player out of his starting XI just one day after insisting he ‘didn’t like’ the free agent’s angry reaction to being taken off in the 2-1 defeat to Son Heung-min’s side.
And the manager had been facing increasing pressure to bench the star, with the likes of Holland legend Frank de Boer leading the calls for him to be left out if Portugal were to succeed in Qatar.
Ronaldo’s relegation to the bench for Portugal grabbed the headlines in the lead up to the game
The Dutch legend said: ‘It’s not only Ronaldo, it’s everything that comes with him. Everybody has an opinion. The weight you get on your shoulders when you leave him out… you have to respond to that. Everybody will only talk about Cristiano Ronaldo and nothing else.
And Dutch legend De Boer (pictured) insisted the former Manchester United star ‘must be a little bit smarter’ after his latest outburst
‘It’s not about the game you’re going to play against Switzerland, basically, it’s about why did you put him on the bench or why did you start with him.
‘You never do it right probably. If I were the manager I would put him on the bench.
When asked if he would be angry if, as a manager, Ronaldo swore at him as he supposedly did Portugal boss Fernando Santos, De Boer added: ‘It depends, what time and how he did it. You always have to see the whole picture.
‘But how he reacted lately, of course, there is already a negative vibe around him, so he must also be a little bit smarter at this moment.’
Portugal, however, were quick to prove that they would not struggle in the absence of arguably the greatest player in their long history.
Portugal won the European Championships in 2016 after Ronaldo left the pitch injured
Ronaldo’s absence may have grabbed the headlines, but his side were 5-1 up by the time he entered the fray in the 73rd minute of the match.
Goncalo Ramos in particular, the 21-year-old Benfica striker, seemed to flourish in the vacant striker position, netting a hat-trick in just his first Portugal start.
Pepe, Raphael Gurreiro, and super sub Rafael Leao scored the other three as Portugal ran riot on Tuesday evening.
Fernando Santos admitted he ‘didn’t like’ Ronaldo’s reaction when he was subbed against South Korea
Prior to kick-off the Portuguese captain had been surrounded by countless cameras and photographers when taking his place on the Portuguese bench for the first time in 14 years in a major tournament knockout game.
And his long-awaited entrance in the game was heralded by loud cheers and chants of his name, with the announcement of his name when he came onto the pitch celebrated like a goal in the stands.
There was speculation on social media that the legendary forward had appeared miserable on the bench throughout the game, neglecting to partake in his side’s celebrations at the first two goals from Ramos and Pepe.
However ITV pundit Gary Neville was quick to assuage those claims, saying: ‘There was a picture doing the rounds on social media in the first half which looked like he was miserable on the bench after they scored the first two goals – but he celebrated like crazy when they scored the first two goals.
Gary Neville assuaged claims that Ronaldo had been sulking during the first half on the bench
‘And to be fair I’ve given him a bit of criticism for sulking – he wasn’t sulking.
‘He went and celebrated with Ramos and Pepe for both goals. It looked like he was miserable on social media but that’s not the case.’
Irrespective of the reasons behind Ronaldo’s absence from the starting side, for former Holland midfielder Nigel De Jong it is important for the rest of the squad to try and find a resolution to the potential friction in the Portugal camp.
Nigel de Jong added that it was important to maintain the ‘harmony’ within the Portugal squad.
‘It’s really important especially with a player of that stature in your squad,’ said De Jong. ‘It’s not always a bit about what’s on the pitch it’s also what happens off the pitch and you need to keep that harmony and that atmosphere and he’s an influential figure on that squad, so you need to keep him happy, you need to give him minutes, and it was also the game for him to give him minutes.’
‘At the end of the day it’s not about the individual anymore, he needs to think about the team process. I think the next couple of days are going to be really crucial for him and the Portuguese team in order to go to the quarter finals.
‘How will he put himself out there, will he be the leader will he be the captain that everybody speaks of?’
Portugal will now face Morocco in the quarter finals of the World Cup, after the Atlas Lions stunned Spain on penalties to become the first north African side to reach the last eight.
Ian Wright insisted that Portugal would be able to go all the way in Qatar even without Ronaldo
And although Ian Wright believes that they have as much chance as tournament favourites Brazil of winning the competition, the question remains whether they need their talisman to do so.
‘Yeah without a doubt,’ said Wright on ITV, when asked whether Portugal can lift the trophy on December 18. ‘And if Cristiano Ronaldo can – he can look at this team from back to front and that’s a team that can easily go all the way, and he can still really contribute to this team without having to do too much because this team can do it without him.
‘They proved it when they won the Euros and they’ve done it today. They were dynamic without him and if he can get it all right in his head – but he could still end up scoring the winning goal for them!’