Bruno Fernandes has paid tribute to departing Portugal head coach Fernando Santos after the veteran manager was sacked this week.
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Santos, who guided Portugal to their inaugural major tournament win at Euro 2016, has paid the price for an unimpressive World Cup. They headed to Qatar as one of the favourites but crashed out to Morocco at the quarter-finals.
The 68-year-old had a contract which extended to the summer of 2024, but on Thursday it was confirmed the two parties had come to an agreement to go in a new direction.
“It was an honour to have a coach and a person like Fernando Santos at the head of the National Team,” a statement from the Portuguese FA reads.
“The FPF thanks Fernando Santos and his technical team for the services provided over eight unique years and believes that this thanks is also made on behalf of the Portuguese people. The FPF Board will now begin the process of choosing the next national coach.”
Santos’ final tournament in charge was littered with much controversy after he chose to drop Cristiano Ronaldo for their knockout games. The former Manchester United striker had one goal in the group stages, but was replaced by Goncalo Ramos for the games with Switzerland & Morocco.
That decision sparked rumours of a possible rift between player and manager, although Ronaldo said he had no intention of turning his back on his country. His partner Georgina Rodriguez did little to quash speculation of a feud, penning a pointed message to Santos after their elimination.
“Today your friend and coach made the wrong decision,” she posted after the defeat to Morocco. “That friend for whom you have so many words of admiration and respect. The same one who, when putting you on the field, saw how everything changed, but it was too late.
“You can’t underestimate the best player in the world, its most powerful weapon. Much less should one stand up for those who don’t deserve it.”
But, Fernandes appeared to show no ill-feeling towards Santos for their failure in Qatar and penned an emotional tribute to the manager.
“Many thanks to mister Fernando Santos. Thank you for the opportunity to represent our country and for the trust in us the past few years,” he posted on social media.
“As a Portuguese, thank you for putting Portugal at the top of Europe and returning confidence and belief to a ‘small’ country that it was possible to be among the ‘big ones’.
“Moments of glory and joy and others of sadness and frustration, but history was made and will forever be marked in the hearts of all Portuguese.”