The Portugal captain didn’t make the starting line-up in the team’s two knockout games for ‘political reasons’.
Cristiano Ronaldo was subjected to a ‘political ban’ at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, according to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Despite picking Ronaldo in the line-up for all three Group H games, Fernando Santos benched the five-time Ballon d’Or winner for the knockout stages. The then-Portugal manager elected Goncalo Ramos as his starting striker instead.
Portugal reached the quarter-finals, but crashed out of the World Cup in a shock 1-0 defeat to Morocco.
“They have wasted Ronaldo. Unfortunately, they have imposed a political ban on him,” Erdogan said at a youth event in the eastern Erzurum province on Sunday as quoted on AA.
“Sending a footballer like Ronaldo to the pitch with just 30 minutes remaining to the match ruined his psychology and took away his energy.”
“Ronaldo is someone who stands for the Palestinian cause,” Erdogan added.
The former Real Madrid and Manchester United forward came on as a substitute instead in both of Portugal’s knockout games. In total, he saw 56 minutes of action.
The 1-0 defeat to Morocco ended Ronaldo’s World Cup dream for possibly the last time. After all, the Portuguese ace will be 41 when the 2026 World Cup starts in North America.
As for Erdogan’s claim that Ronaldo ‘stands for the Palestinian cause’, the footballer has not spoken about the Israel-Palestine conflict. He has been pictured with Palestinian political leader Jibril Rajoub and former Israeli foreign minister Israel Katz, but nothing more than that.
The 37-year-old is working on staying match-fit and searching for a new club after leaving United last month. For weeks, reports have linked him with a transfer to Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr. However, at the time of writing, he has yet to announce his next move.