Claims that Portugal are “Cristiano Ronaldo plus 10” come as no surprise to Fernando Santos, with the Euro 2016-winning coach prepared to acknowledge that his side lean heavily on “the best player in the world”.
A five-time Ballon d’Or winner is the undoubted star for his country, with his inspirational form at club level with Real Madrid often transferred into the international arena.
He helped Portugal to European Championship glory two years ago, netting crucial goals en route to the final before taking on a cheerleading role against France after picking up an unfortunate injury.
Ronaldo will be expected to lead the charge again this summer, with global glory up for grabs, but Santos insists his charges are no one-man team, despite looking to a superstar skipper for guidance.
He told Goal ahead of a trip to Russia: “Cristiano is essential for any team. That was already said at Manchester United and is now said at Real Madrid, and we are talking about two of the best teams in the world.
“Of course, the best player in the world is an absolutely fundamental element in any strategy, but we all know that to win we have to have a strong team and play as a team.
“In fact, he [Cristiano] has demonstrated this commitment, this spirit of sacrifice and dedication, and his colleagues are even more motivated by his example.”
Santos added on Ronaldo and an ongoing battle with eternal rival Lionel Messi which will see Real Madrid and Barcelona icons lock horns again in pursuit of international honours in 2018: “There is still a lot of time left before the World Cup and I prefer to analyse the present.
“Cristiano is in excellent form and I hope that it continues until and during the competition in Russia.”
Portugal will be hoping to repeat their Euro 2016 heroics on the grandest of stages this summer, but Santos concedes that they will once again be looking to prevail as an underdog.
“I say this because of the enormous recruiting base and the extraordinary quality of their teams, who have a winning history and experience in these competitions.”
On possible targets for his side, Santos added: “If there are five favourites and only four places in the semi-finals, we can easily see how difficult it is to reach this stage of the competition.
“We know we are not favourites and we accept the favouritism of other teams, but that does not mean that we have no ambition and the goal of entering each game to win.”