Just one more day until what’s expected to be one of the best games at World Cup 2018.
European champions Portugal face Spain, one of the pre-tournament favourites, and on paper, it promises to be quite the contest.
The sub plots are almost more interesting than the main event itself.
Some of which are set to harm the Portuguese.
Earlier this week, Gelson Martins and Bruno Fernandes ripped up their playing contracts with Sporting CP, following similar actions by their colleagues.
It comes as a result of rows with the president over form and commitment, and a subsequent physical attack on them by members of the club’s ultras.
A number of first team players were wounded, some more than others, and that was enough for them to cite ‘just cause’ when advising that they’d played their last game for the Portuguese giants.
Ronaldo, meanwhile, is also feeling the pressure. That much was clear from his demeanour during Portugal’s training sessions earlier in the week.
His ire stems from Real Madrid no longer playing his silly games.
With alarming regularity at the end of each season, we’ve seen a ‘Cristiano Ronaldo wants to leave’ narrative. Faced with losing their best player, Los Blancos have always given him what he wants.
Though a recent offer of higher salary may not be Real’s final position, it’s certainly well short of Lionel Messi and Neymar’s remuneration, and it’s an offer that Ronaldo has been quoted as saying he is ‘disgusted’ with.
For once, that hasn’t sent those in the corridors of power at the Santiago Bernabeu scurrying off in a blind panic.
Instead, they’ve called his bluff, and he doesn’t like it. Not one bit.
Being around the Portugal squad and in Russia should be cathartic for the player, but one can clearly see all isn’t well.
As not only their best player, but chief motivator too, Ronaldo’s presence on the pitch is a given. But he has to clear his mind of all distractions for the next couple of weeks at the very least.
This match will likely prove vital for determining who finishes top of the group so it’s imperative that, as captain, Ronaldo is the leader supreme. Much like his opposite number.
If it’s the tetchy, sulky and sullen player that takes to the field on Friday, then there’s only one result likely here… and it won’t be to Portugal’s benefit.
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