Ronaldo was not picked for this round of international fixtures, amid rape allegations - which the 33-year-old has strongly denied - following an incident in a Las Vegas hotel in 2009.
But Santos insisted that his side were not better off without the Juventus star.
"No team can be better without the best in the world, it's not worth talking about who's not there," Santos told reporters.
"When Cristiano plays, he is more advanced on the left side and gives us more ability to finish.
"When he plays we have to find a solution to get the ball to him and when he comes inside we have to have a player to cover on the left. This is how we will continue.
Boa sorte família! pic.twitter.com/3bZfdhXM4j— Cristiano Ronaldo (@Cristiano) October 11, 2018
"We started well, controlled the ball, but conceded a goal. It could have been a difficult time but the team stayed calm, controlled the rhythms.
"We scored the third goal and then there was a little issue with losing the ball in dangerous zones. We had a lot of problems.
"Portugal has only one focus, to win, the results in official matches show this.
"We do not get to be a European champion without wanting to win. A few times [we are] more defensive, others more offensive, but you have to defend well, otherwise you will not win."