Cristiano Ronaldo’s friction with Portugal has grown more tense with his team-mates questioning why his personal manager – Ricky Regufe – has formed part of their entourage at the World Cup, according to reports.
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Ronaldo has found himself under fire in Qatar after his poor display for his country before sulking after being subbed off during a 2-1 loss to South Korea in the group stages – which earned the wrath of manager Fernando Santos.
He is then reported to have threatened to quit their World Cup camp when he learned he would be benched for the last-16 game against Switzerland – claims Portugal deny – which saw his replacement Goncalo Ramos get a hat-trick in a 6-1 win.
Ronaldo is also reported to have failed to train with the substitutes from that match and instead undergone a low-intensity session with the starters – despite only coming on for 20 minutes.
Now – in more damanging reports about Ronaldo’s rift with the squad – Portuguese outlet Record claim that the team are growing uneasy about the presence of Regufe, who is said to have ‘excessive influence’ after becoming Ronaldo’s personal manager in 2018.
A number of players ‘do not understand the reason’ for him joining the squad, with Regufe said to be sharing spaces designated for players, with some questioning why he is always in close proximity with the team – including during match-days.
Another reason for their frustration is that no other players apart from him have been permitted to take guests with them to Portugal’s World Cup camp.
Regufe was formerly a leading marketing manager for Nike and was a huge influence in ensuring Ronaldo formed close ties with the sportswear giant after their meeting in 2003 when the player was at Sporting Lisbon – convincing him to sign a boot deal with them.
He would become a major part of the furniture around Ronaldo’s life and has often been pictured at dinner parties, luxury holidays and awards ceremonies with the footballer.
Notably he was seen pitchside at the Euro 2016 – which Portugal won against France – as he embraced Ronaldo on the pitch after they secured the trophy.
The latest development with Ronaldo on World Cup duty comes as he was forced to speak out after claims he wanted to pack his bags and leave Qatar when he was left out of Portugal’s line-up for the Switzerland match.
Ronaldo posted a Tweet on Thursday saying the squad would not be influenced by ‘outside forces’ and said they were ‘strong and brave’.
‘A group too close to be broken by outside forces. A nation too brave to let itself be frightened by any adversary. ‘A team in the truest sense of the word, which will fight for the dream until the end! Believe with us! Strength, Portugal!’
The Portugal FA also denied the reports, saying in a statement that Ronaldo ‘builds up a unique track record every day at the service of the national team and the country, which must be respected and which attests to the unquestionable degree of commitment to the national team.’
But, Ronaldo’s behaviour has not gone done well in the Portugal camp after his reaction to being subbed off against South Korea last month – something Santos said he ‘really didn’t like’.
‘If I see the images, yes, I didn’t like it, not at all. I really didn’t like it,’ Santos said. ‘Everything is finished, full stop, regarding that issue and now we have to think about the match and everyone is focused on the match.
‘I only decide who is going to be the captain when I reach the stadium so I don’t know the line-up.
‘That’s what I’ve always done and that’s what I’m always going to do. It’s going to be the same with this match.’