Cristiano Ronaldo will start for Portugal in their first World Cup match – two days after his contract with Manchester United was terminated.
Ronaldo has yet to speak publicly since becoming a free agent for the first time in his career after opting to skip media captain duties on Wednesday.
But head coach Fernando Santos was undeterred by the off-field drama surrounding the 37-year-old and picked him from the start against Ghana this afternoon.
“This is something that hasn’t even been discussed yet,” boss Santos said of Ronaldo on Wednesday, growing increasingly frustrated with questions about his captain. ‘This conversation [about his exit] never occurred to me, not even from him.’
On Tuesday, as revealed by Sportsmail, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner kissed goodbye to £16 million after he left United with immediate effect.
Ronaldo’s departure has been agreed by mutual consent, but Sports mail can reveal that United have not paid any fees for the remaining seven months of his £500,000-a-week contract at Old Trafford.
Ronaldo’s departure was announced on Tuesday afternoon after United confirmed the news in a 67-word statement.
Cristiano Ronaldo remains focused on Portugal’s World Cup campaign after Manchester United’s departure
“Cristiano Ronaldo is leaving Manchester United by mutual agreement, effective immediately,” the statement began.
The club thanks him for his tremendous contribution during two spells at Old Trafford, scoring 145 goals in 346 appearances, and wishes him and his family all the best for the future.
“Everyone at Manchester United remains focused on continuing the team’s progress under Erik ten Hag and working together to achieve success on the pitch.”
Ronaldo released his own statement following the news, writing: “Following talks with Manchester United, we have mutually agreed to terminate our contract early.
“I love Manchester United and I love the fans, that will never change. However, it feels like the right time for me to look for a new challenge.
“I wish the team every success for the rest of the season and for the future.”
The Portugal captain took to Instagram to send a message to fans ahead of their World Cup campaign, which kicks off against Ghana on Thursday
Ronaldo’s position at United was untenable once his explosive telling interview with Piers Morgan aired on TalkTV.
In it, the Portuguese star ripped at United’s lack of evolution since he first left in 2009, accusing the club of betraying him, saying the owners don’t care about the club and the fact that he doesn’t like manager Erik ten Hag. respects. .
It leaves Ronaldo, eager to continue playing at Champions League level for as long as possible, to go into the opening group stage match at the World Cup as a free agent looking to impress.
Chelsea have been floated as a possible destination as Blues owner Todd Boehly has long been an admirer of the 37-year-old and sought to bring him to Stamford Bridge this summer amid his Manchester United transfer saga.
But a report of The sun has claimed that Chelsea are unlikely to play a part in the striker’s future as the idea has ‘gone cold’.
Man Utd and Ronaldo mutually agreed to terminate his contract and he will now be a free agent
First of all, Ronaldo will be keen for Portugal to avoid an opening game like Lionel Messi’s Argentina against Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.
He has yet to win the World Cup as a player and this is his fifth with the national team, and one that will likely be his last.
Ronaldo has scored seven times for his country in 17 World Cup appearances since his first appearance in the 2006 final in Germany.
And coach Santos will desperately want the circus around his star player to die down and the focus to return to events on the field.
He said: “We always hear a lot of noise about things happening and Cristiano being Cristiano, it happens.
“I don’t believe what he has done and decided will have any impact on the Portuguese team.”
The captain of Portugal trains with his teammates ahead of their opening game against Ghana