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What about Ronaldo’s career after Portugal’s elimination from the World Cup?

Cristiano Ronaldo’s career in Portugal is on the line following Portugal’s crushing 1-0 defeat by Morocco.

Ronaldo, 37, one of the greatest players ever, has never won a World Cup, and probably never will, following Morocco’s impressive and historic victory over Portugal on Saturday night in Qatar.

As Morocco’s bank stormed the pitch in jubilation, torching the Al Thumama stadium and sparking celebrations across Africa and the Arab world, cameras scrambled to focus on the Portuguese captain.

The contrast, by comparison, was startling.

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Ronaldo stormed off the field, taking one last stoic look at the crowd before covering his face with his hand, utterly disappointed.

Notably, he walked off the pitch without the company of his teammates, apparently sobbing, as he walked past reporters, cameramen and FIFA staff towards the Portuguese locker room. He was almost completely alone.

Ronaldo has yet to comment on his future.

If Qatar is truly the end, it will be the bittersweet conclusion to a legendary career for the Portuguese player.

Ronaldo’s crowning moment in the tournament, when he became the only player in history to score a goal in five separate World Cups, is sure to be remembered for generations.

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Ronaldo holds the world record for all-time top scorer in international matches with 118 international goals in 196 matches. He’s also a five-time Ballon d’Or winner, four European Golden Boot winners and seven league titles to his credit.

In October, he scored his 700th career club goal for Manchester, another unrivaled feat for a player who began his career with Real Madrid in 2003.

Cristiano Ronaldo on the Portuguese bench during Portugal's clash against Morocco at the Al Thumama Stadium on December 10.
Cristiano Ronaldo on the Portuguese bench during Portugal’s clash with Morocco at the Al Thumama Stadium on December 10, 2022 [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

However, the 2022 World Cup was undoubtedly a roller coaster of ups and downs for the soccer giant.

Notably, Ronaldo was benched in Portugal’s first knockout round demolishing Switzerland 6-1, the first time since 2008, after he reacted angrily to being substituted against South Korea in the final group game. . Reports later surfaced that he had threatened to quit the Portuguese team in the middle of his World Cup run. Portugal denied those reports.

On Saturday, Ronaldo was relegated to the bench again by manager Fernando Santos, who gave the go-ahead to his replacement, Gonçalo Ramos, after scoring a hat-trick in the Switzerland game.

“I don’t regret it,” Santos said of his decision not to start the Portuguese captain for the second game in a row.

“Cristiano is a great player, he came in when we thought it was necessary. We have no regrets.”

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Ronaldo was not substituted on the field until the 51st minute, and as he ran onto the pitch, he exchanged the captain’s armband with veteran defender Pepe before turning his attention to his remaining teammates, whom he desperately urged to press.

His cameo appearance at the end of the game was greeted with a loud chorus of boos at the Al Thumama Stadium, where the Portuguese fans were outnumbered by the Moroccans. As the final whistle approached, Ronaldo raised his arms to the Portuguese fans in a last-ditch attempt to cheer the crowd.

The Portuguese captain was about to create a scoring chance in the 82nd minute, giving an assist to his teammate João Félix, whose shot derailed the Moroccan goalkeeper. In the end, Ronaldo and the team were unable to repair the damage caused by Moroccan Youssef En Nesyri, whose winning header in the 42nd minute was enough to take the Atlas Lions to the World Cup semi-finals.

As a tearful Ronaldo made his way to the locker room, his teammates, still transfixed by the Moroccan defeat, stayed on the pitch to interact and thank the Portuguese fans.

Portugal, which beat Ghana and blanked Uruguay before being beaten 2-1 by South Korea in the group stage, hasn’t advanced beyond the round of 16 since finishing fourth at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Seleção das Quinas finished third in 1966. The team has never won a World Cup.

Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal celebrates after scoring against Ghana at the 2022 FIFA World Cup on November 24.
Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring against Ghana at the 2022 FIFA World Cup on November 24, making him the only player in history to have scored in five World Cups. [Reuters/Hannah Mckay]

Ronaldo, who leaves Qatar having never scored a goal in the knockout round, will now transition back to an uncertain future for the club.

Days after the start of the tournament, Ronaldo was dropped by Manchester United with “immediate effect” after he conducted an explosive interview on the eve of the World Cup, in which he strongly criticized Old Trafford manager Erik ten Hag.

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Ronaldo has weathered his fair share of controversy on and off the pitch over the past two decades, but now he may be entering the most difficult stage of his career.

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