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 trashed 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 on Thursday 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.
Speaking at Portugal’s press conference on Tuesday, Mario said: ‘I was in the locker room at that moment, I saw pictures.
‘It was a joke between them because Bruno was one of the last to arrive and Cristiano asked if he had come by boat. It was a joke between them, they play together.’
Mario claims that Fernandes’ late arrival was what prompted a confused look on Ronaldo’s face, as opposed to an awkwardness caused by the latter’s tell-all interview.
Both of these incidents follow Ronaldo’s interview where he revealed that he did not ‘respect’ current United boss Erik ten Hag while also taking aim at the club’s facilities and their place in the football pecking order.
He claimed they had fallen below the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City and also expressed a belief that he had been ‘betrayed’ by the club.
Ronaldo also took aim at the role of United’s owners and urged fans to continue their protest against the Glazers.