StoryPortugal manager hails Cristiano Ronaldo’s leadership qualities

Portugal head coach Fernando Santos has hailed Cristiano Ronaldo’s captaincy skills ahead of the country’s opening World Cup game against Spain. The Portuguese suffered a shock group-stage exit at the 2014 World Cup but they have since progressed efficiently under Santos, who guided them to a shock Euro 2016 final triumph over hosts France.

Speaking ahead of the Spain game, Santos praised the leadership qualities of Ronaldo, who recently acquired his 150th cap with the national team, he said: “Cristiano [Ronaldo] is an extraordinary captain. You know... what kind of player he is. He has a strong positive influence on the team, both on and off the pitch. He plays a certain role, I play a certain role, but the team is the most important [component of success]. And he understands it, too. Every member of our team is ready and understands his goals. We have a worthy rival... I can't tell you who will win. We are ready.”

Ronaldo struggled with his form during the opening half of the 2017/18 season and there were talks of him dropping in his performance levels. However, the Real Madrid ace was literally a different person during the backend of the same campaign and he ended the season lifting the Champions League crown for the third straight season.

Despite this, the 33-year-old is unlikely to guide Portugal to World Cup success on his own and he will be hoping that the likes of Andre Silva and Bernardo Silva turn up at the global tournament. Andre Silva has acted as an exact companion for Ronaldo upfront with Portugal but the main playmaking attributes have been brought forward by Bernardo Silva, who has upped his game over the past 24 months. Portugal face Spain in the opening game of Group B on Friday night before tackling Morocco and Iran