‘Ronaldo will never be a No 9’

Portugal Coach Fernando Santos can’t see Cristiano Ronaldo becoming a genuine centre-forward, preferring the Real Madrid forward in a wide berth.

Ronaldo has at times been used through the middle for club and country but Santos, in an interview with news agency EFE and reported by AS, rued the lack of a striker on the level of a Ronaldo teammate.

“If we had a [Karim] Benzema I’d think about playing 4-4-2 but I think it’s better to play with two mobile forwards [in a 4-3-3],” he explained.

“I’ll look for a solution to enhance Cristiano in the characteristics of my players. You can’t ask him to act as a winger and defend either, because he uses so much energy in attack and he’s the best in the world and the one who scores the goals, he can’t behave like a defender.

“Cristiano made a great sacrifice [in Portugal’s win over Denmark] and it hasn’t been given enough credit…That has to be taken into account.

“He’s never going to be a striker, a classic No 9, who only plays in the penalty area. Nor is he a classic winger, like Luis Figo. Cristiano performs better when he comes from the wing into the middle.

“I had him at Sporting when he was 18 and he was like he is today: with the nature of a winner. He has good selfishness in the sense of wanting to win, wanting to be the best.

“Is that bad? I don’t think so. Cristiano is who he is because of that way of thinking. I’ve never seen him angry when the team wins and he doesn’t score.

“What makes Cristiano better is competing with himself [not Lionel Messi]. When I met Cristiano in 2003 Messi was not yet on the scene. Cristiano had great potential, to the level of Eusebio.

“I told him he was a bit weak in the air. The next day he was practicing headers again and again and again. Apart from that, [Ronaldo and Messi] are two geniuses, completely incomparable.”

Tags Cristiano Ronaldo Fernando Santos Portugal
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