Cristiano Ronaldo will still believe he will score the winning goal in the World Cup final, according to former Real Madrid full-back Michel Salgado.
Portugal head coach Fernando Santos started Ronaldo on the bench for their last-16 clash with Switzerland on Tuesday, which worked out well as his replacement, Goncalo Ramos, scored a hat-trick in a 6-1 win.
It came just two weeks after Ronaldo and Manchester United agreed to terminate his contract, with coach Erik ten Hag shaping his team largely without the 37-year-old, despite him being the Premier League side’s top scorer last season.
Speaking to Stats Perform, Salgado explained how it can feel to go through a decline in importance near the end of a playing career, but added his belief that Ronaldo will still want to prove the doubters wrong.
“We all need to face changes, it’s life, and he is being put under pressure constantly,” he said. “But he needs to live with it, we all went through that, at one point we were super important in our career, and at some point there is a change.
“You can see that other guy is coming, that they can play without you, and you realise that they play without you and win without you. But, obviously, what Cristiano means for football is huge, we will miss him.
“I know him well and he is not going to put his head down. He is going to still be thinking today that he is going to score the World Cup winning goal and that Portugal are going to be champions with him, and no one will convince him otherwise.”
Salgado left Madrid in 2009, shortly after Ronaldo had arrived from United, and thinks the five-time Ballon d’Or winner could still have an important part to play for his national side in Qatar, who face Morocco in the quarter-finals on Saturday.
“I think we need to leave him alone, Portugal won clearly with him, the alternative of using another player instead of him worked for the coach,” he added. “He had the personality to look for solutions without Ronaldo, but if I were a manager, and I believe Fernando [Santos] knows it, you need to count on Ronaldo if you want to win this World Cup. That is clear.
“What is needed is Ronaldo mentally finding his place, and keeping focused on the national team, come what may. But it is very obviously a moment of change for him.”