Will Ronaldo's Man United bombshell RUIN Portugal's World Cup dreams?

Will Ronaldo’s Man United bombshell RUIN Portugal’s World Cup dreams? His frosty handshake with Bruno Fernandes hints at trouble ahead and evidence for club and country suggests they DON’T play well together even before this new friction

  • Cristiano Ronaldo’s stunning interview has given Portugal a World Cup dilemma
  • Fernando Santos would have hoped club issues would be put to one side
  • But the frosty reception by Bruno Fernandes to Ronaldo suggests otherwise
  • The two Manchester United stars have always had a complex relationship 
  • Fernandes struggled to dovetail with Ronaldo when he returned last season
  • He has become instrumental again now Erik ten Hag dropped the 37-year-old 
  • Click here for the latest World Cup 2022 news, fixtures, live action and results

Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes have both worn the captain’s armband for Manchester United this season but treated the honour very differently.

The big question is whether Portugal’s World Cup hopes are damaged by any fall-out.

Whereas Ronaldo responded to being skipper at Aston Villa by saying in an interview he felt ‘betrayed’ by the club, Fernandes has been a leading light in the Erik ten Hag revolution and has regularly stood in for Harry Maguire as team captain.

Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo already had a complex relationship but things could well have taken a turn for the worse after Ronaldo’s bombshell interview at the weekend

The pair now head to the World Cup with Portugal and it promises to be a tense time in Qatar

No wonder there was a frosty exchange between them inside the Portuguese dressing-room as they met up for the first time in the build-up to Qatar.

Fernandes could hardly bring himself to shake the hand of 37-year-old Ronaldo, possibly feeling betrayed himself by the latest public revelations. Claims from team-mates that it was a joke between the pair aren’t persuasive judging by the footage.

The pair have always had a complex relationship. Bruno was the king of Sporting Lisbon but often found himself overshadowed by Ronaldo’s superstar presence with the national team.


They were never close friends and it was noticeable that when Ronaldo rejoined United in 2021, Bruno’s previously excellent form tailed off. 

It’s only since Ten Hag has marginalised Ronaldo that the playmaker has become a major influencer again.

Fernandes (right) walked into the Portugal dressing room and looked to avoid Ronaldo (left)

The Portugal captain (left) wanted to greet his club and international team-mate, however

Fernandes (right) duly accepted Ronaldo’s (left) offer of a handshake before saying something that left the recalcitrant forward looking mildly baffled 

It’s a conundrum for Portugal’s experienced manager Fernando Santos, who would ordinarily see Bruno’s creativity combined with Ronaldo’s mastery up front as their best route to becoming world champions.

He will desperately want club business to be left at the door when they arrive in Qatar. 

In a tough group featuring Uruguay, South Korea and Ghana, Portugal need to start well in the opening fixture against the Africans on November 24. 

There is a worry inside the camp that the Ronaldo interview could derail their chances.

At the last World Cup in Russia, Ronaldo was arguably the world’s best player and Fernandes a rookie from Sporting Lisbon with only six previous caps. He hadn’t been part of their Euro 2016 triumph at all.

Fernandes appeared to have taken umbrage with the star’s recent interview with Piers Morgan

After a – very – brief exchange, Fernandes turned to greet his other international team-mates

Giving Ronaldo one more look with a smirk etched across his face, Fernandes turned away

Now their relative status has narrowed. Ronaldo remains a legend but wouldn’t make any current world XI. Fernandes is 28 and sees himself as a team leader for club and country.

Though the 2019 Nations League triumph represents their greatest shared moment in a Portugal shirt, even then it was noticeable that Bernardo Silva, rather than Bruno, had a telepathic understanding with Ronaldo, who scored a brilliant hat-trick in the semi-final win against Switzerland.

Bruno was a starter when Euro 2020 began but had been demoted to the bench by the time Portugal went out. 

Ronaldo didn’t look fully fit, as he’d also struggled in Russia, running out of steam after a brilliant treble in the opening game against Spain.

It’s often overlooked that Ronaldo arrived on the national team as something of an outsider. He grew up in Madeira which is closer to mainland Africa than the Portuguese mainland.

The Ronaldo situation creates a problem for Portugal coach Fernando Santos in the World Cup

Santos keeps a close eye on star man Ronaldo during Portugal’s training session on Monday

Even Fernandes has noted: ‘Portuguese people cannot understand what people from Madeira say. Cristiano will say that me and Diogo Dalot (another United and Portugal team-mate) speak in a different way.’

Ronaldo’s genius eventually made him indispensable over time. He single-handedly took Portugal to the final of Euro 2016. 

When he was injured early on against France, he was as active on the touchline as his manager as Portugal won their first major trophy.

But now Portugal have a new generation of top players including Bruno, Bernardo, Joao Felix and Paris Saint-Germain trio Danilo, Nuno Mendes and Vitinha. 

There is debate about whether the game-plan should be based exclusively around Ronaldo, the same argument that’s been had at Old Trafford.

Portugal fans will hope the latest Ronaldo bombshell at Man United won’t affect them in Qatar

Bruno has said about his on-pitch relationship with Ronaldo: ‘Good players can always play well together.’

He can also see the sense of having an icon in the team line-up. ‘To play as a No 10 with Cristiano in the national team is really good because players respect him so much, it creates space.

‘The opponents are afraid of him taking the ball and scoring.’

Yet the body language would suggest friction. And Bruno’s own performances with Cristiano suggest he is affected by the giant ego.

Having had a brilliant penalty record for United, Bruno missed his first spot-kick after Ronaldo had arrived, blasting the ball over against Aston Villa, aware many wanted the five-time Ballon d’Or winner to take it.

Ronaldo looked taken aback when Bruno acted cold towards him this week. If he thought he could compartmentalise everything and that club issues wouldn’t impact on the World Cup, he might have underestimated how long Bruno has been trying to escape from his shadow.

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