MILAN – Portugal coach Fernando Santos insisted Saturday that superstar Cristiano Ronaldo remains a key part of his national team despite being left out of his Nations League squad, after the European champions became the first team to advance to the semi-finals of the competition.
The five-time Ballon d'Or winner spent much of last month vehemently denying allegations of rape and was dropped by Santos for the Nations League internationals amid accusations by former model Kathryn Mayorga that Ronaldo raped her in 2009, just before he joined Real Madrid from Manchester United.
"There are no questions to ask. Ronaldo is part of this team, just read the post he wrote today," said Santos, referring to the message the Juventus player sent to wish his teammates good luck via Twitter.
Portugal booked their ticket to the semi-finals next June after holding Italy to a 0-0 draw at the San Siro on Saturday.
They progressed top of Group A3 with one match to play, dashing Italy's hopes in the process.
"The qualification confirms the quality of our football," said Santos.
"I thought it would be a great match and instead especially in the first half we had a lot of difficulties.
"After the break I explained to them what was happening, and the game became more balanced."
Portugal host relegated Poland in three days in Guimaraes, in a match that has no significance for either side.
But Santos insisted: "The final match against Poland will be important because it will be on front of our public, who are always with us.
"We have to play well and to win."AFP