Cristiano Ronaldo has spoken three days before Portugal kick off their World Cup campaign against Ghana.
The Seleção captain was the chosen player for today’s daily press conference, and did not shirk any question. The press conference covered Portugal’s ambitions, the tournament favourites, that interview, his relationship with Bruno Fernandes, and the Lionel Messi GOAT debate.
Is this Portugal’s best generation of players?
“It’s all relative. I believe our team has enormous potential. Whether we win or not… Let’s see. Whether this is the best Seleção or not, we can only say at the end. A team that wins is the best generation.
“This generation is very good, it has enormous potential, it’s young. But we’ll take things calmly and think first about the match against Ghana, which in my opinion is the most difficult. We need to start well to gain confidence, and then take it step by step.
Who are the tournament favourites?
“There are those teams who we look at in a different light and make the biggest favourites, like Brazil, Argentina, France and Germany, who usually have more probability or are considered favourites by the whole world and by the fans.
In 2016, nobody gave Portugal a chance and we won. There may be surprises, and I hope in this World Cup it can happen again.”
Relationship with Bruno Fernandes
“In these tournament final phases there are always controversies. This incident with Bruno Fernandes was another one that you [the media] got wrong. You get lots of things wrong! I was having a joke with him. My relationship with him is excellent. He arrived late because his plane was delayed and I asked him if he came by boat. It was a joke and you made a storm out of it.
“The same thing happened with Cancelo. He was a little annoyed in the training session after a heavy challenge by Félix. I grabbed his neck and said, “come on mate, let’s go,” to encourage him.”
The Piers Morgan interview
“Everything around Cristiano is always a debate. This was the timing I chose for the interview; I’m not worried what others think. I’m absolutely sure it will not influence anything as regards what the Portugal team wants to do this tournament.
“All the players and staff know me; they know how I think. They’ve known me since I was 12 years old and they won’t be influenced by what others say and write.
“The squad is tightknit, confident and united. We’re are really looking forward to this competition. Everyone wants to play, which is something I like to see in a squad that has very high ambitions. I have no doubt that this episode that happened with me, or any other one that happens with other players, will not affect the squad.”
“The atmosphere in the Seleção is excellent. We are all with body and soul in the Seleção. We have the goal of winning the tournament and the squad is tightknit.
“I’ll take the opportunity to ask you, for the next press conferences, don’t always ask questions about Cristiano. Ask questions about the World Cup, about their expectations, and don’t talk about me. The Cristiano case is closed. Talk about the tournament.
“If someone asked me a question, for example, about Rafa [who recently retired from international football], I wouldn’t answer it, because it’s a chapter that has closed. The coach gave an interview and talked about this topic.
“Ask questions about the Seleção. I’d like you to do that.”
You are two goals away from equalling Eusébio’s record as Portugal’s highest goalscorer at World Cups. Is that one of your aims?
“As I’ve said before, and it may seem a little vain, I don’t chase after records, they chase after me. In the last few years I’ve beaten record after record. Beating the record of our Eusébio would be something special, but I’m not losing sleep over it.
“If we win the tournament and I don’t score a single goal, I’ll take that, I swear on my children’s lives. It’s the most important thing for me. It’s what will be written in the annuls.”
Will Portugal winning finally settle the Ronaldo/Messi GOAT debate?
“I don’t see things that way. Even if we won the World Cup that debate would go on. It’s like everything in life; some prefer blonds, others prefer brunettes.
“I’d love to win this tournament, but if you told me I’d never win another trophy until the end of my career, I’d be happy all the same. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved.
“But a World Cup in my career wouldn’t be bad! I’d love it and it’s a dream for me. It’s possible. Let’s see. I hope the positive energies are on our side and we can do our best.”
Portugal kick off their campaign in Group H against Ghana on Thursday, before taking on Uruguay on 28 November, and ending the group with a match against South Korea, on 2 December.