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WORLD CUP 2022

Cristiano Ronaldo: Should he start?

Ex Manchester United star Nani talks about Cristiano Ronaldo and what his role should and could look like for Portugal in the World Cup in Qatar.

Update:

“With Cristiano, if there is anything that hasn’t happened yet, then people talk, and then it happens,” said former Portugal player Nani.

After his rocky season with Manchester United, Ronaldo is now focusing on the World Cup, but missed Portugal’s friendly against Nigeria on Thursday due to a stomach illness. Ronaldo has had a lot less playing time leading up to the World Cup than he typically would. His shooting accuracy this year is at 31.6%, the lowest it’s been in the last 15 years of his career. Yet Nani insists Ronaldo should still start for Portugal.

“He is a totally different player [for Portugal],” said Nani. “He’s been doing well, even if he’s not scoring goals, he’s been setting up goals for his teammates and been working well.”

Ronaldo’s shot conversion rate has also significantly dropped - at 5.2%, it’s in the single digits for the first time in a league campaign across the same time span. Not only is his performance suffering, but his recent interview with Piers Morgan and his recent antics have made many believe he’s more of a burden than an asset. Despite all that, Nani believes it will all just be added motivation when he plays with Portugal on the big stage.

It will give him much more power to show up at the World Cup with a lot of desire to show the world he is the one who should play and he deserves to play more,” said Nani.

Ronaldo is an experienced World Cup participant. He’s played in four World Cups. What’s odd is that of the six World Cup knockout games he’s participated in, Ronaldo, one of the greatest goalscorers in soccer, has never scored a goal past the group stage, despite taking 25 shots.

“The World Cup is always difficult,” said Nani. “These World Cups, European Cups, it’s complicated. This competition is a short competition. You need to build up a good, strong team. Maybe the opportunity can happen [in Qatar].”

Ronaldo’s only league goal this season made the first time he has ever scored fewer than twice in his first 10 games since 2006-07. Despite these negative stats, Ronaldo has still scored in every one of his four World Cup appearances with seven goals and two assists in 17 games. If he gets more than two goals in Qatar, he will surpass Eusebio to become the leading Portuguese goalscorer in the World Cup.

“People have short-term memory,” said Nani. “If anyone has any doubts about his potential or what he was or where he should be in the world, it’s very easy. Just go back and look at his best performances over the last 13 years, performing for Real Madrid, Portugal, Manchester United. We need to still appreciate the person who gave us so many beautiful moments in the past.”

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