Erik ten Hag revealed Manchester United will target a striker to replace Cristiano Ronaldo in the January transfer window.

Ronaldo acrimoniously exited Old Trafford last month following an explosive interview, in which he criticised boss Ten Hag and the club's owners.

United have been linked with moves for Cody Gakpo and Goncalo Ramos - both of whom scored three goals at the World Cup for the Netherlands and Portugal respectively.

Ten Hag says the Red Devils are on the hunt for a centre forward, but the Dutchman would not reveal the identity of their targets.

When asked whether United were on the lookout for a striker, the Dutchman replied: "Yes, but only when we find the right player. We do everything in our power.

"We are doing research on every opportunity, and we do everything we can if that opportunity is there to contract them.

"I cannot give comments on specific players. I will never do that. Players have contracts and I respect that, but make sure we are working in the background to get the right players in."

Meanwhile, Ten Hag has been encouraged by Anthony Martial who, despite sustaining a hamstring injury during pre-season, has registered four goals and two assists in seven appearances this term.

"We have seen, when he is available, he has a massive impact on our game," said Ten Hag.

"He has less than 300 minutes [this season] and has four goals and two assists. That's a really good record.

"The first challenge for him is to be available and fit. He has to be responsible for it, but we have to support him in all the ways we can."

Cristiano Ronaldo's partner Georgina Rodriguez has criticised Portugal coach Fernando Santos' tactics as the nation suffered a shock World Cup elimination against Morocco.

The 37-year-old forward was benched for the second successive match, as his side fell to a 1-0 quarter-final defeat thanks to a Youssef En-Nesyri header.

Though Ronaldo was introduced shortly after the start of the second half, he was unable to make an impact.

He marched down the tunnel in tears after Portugal crashed out and Rodriguez later launched a stinging attack on head coach Santos.

"Today, your friend and coach decided wrong," she wrote on Instagram. "That friend for whom you have so many words of admiration, and so much respect.

"The same friend who, putting you on the field, saw how everything changed, but it was too late. 

"You can't underestimate the best player in the world and the most powerful weapon you have, just as you can't stand up for someone who doesn't deserve it."

Ronaldo has almost certainly played his last World Cup game and it remains to be seen where he will continue his club career after he was released by Manchester United.

Though Ronaldo has hinted he may yet play on through to the 2026 World Cup, the question of his future with the national side is also up in the air.

Bruno Fernandes hit out at the decision to appoint an Argentinian referee to Portugal's World Cup quarter-final against Morocco following their defeat, claiming: "They have clearly tilted the field against us".

Portugal were eliminated at the quarter-final stage of the tournament for the first time as Youssef En-Nesyri headed home the only goal of the game in the first half.

However, the performance of referee Facundo Tello was criticised by Portugal's players after the game, in which Fernandes was denied a penalty when he went down under a challenge from Achraf Hakimi.

Defender Pepe described Tello's appointment as "unacceptable" after Portugal's loss, and Fernandes concurred.

"I don't know if they are going to give the cup to Argentina. I'm going to say what I think and f*** them," Fernandes told reporters at the Al Thumama Stadium.

"It's very strange that a referee from a team that's still in the tournament referees us. They have clearly tilted the field against us.

"These referees do not officiate in the Champions League. They are not used to this type of game and this pace. 

"In the first half there is a clear penalty on me, without any doubt. Never in my life have I let myself fall when I was alone with the goalkeeper and could shoot at the goal."

Meanwhile, Portugal's World Cup campaign has been overshadowed by speculation concerning the future of Cristiano Ronaldo, who saw his Manchester United contract terminated last month after criticising the club in an interview with Piers Morgan.

Fernandes refuted the suggestion the talk surrounding Ronaldo had negatively impacted Portugal, saying: "Perhaps because of who he is, people click more often on his news.

"It wasn't for that reason that the team didn't go further. We simply couldn't beat Morocco."

Reflecting on Portugal's campaign in Qatar, Fernandes insisted there had been no issue with their application, preferring to credit Morocco's defensive organisation.

"There are some other teams that could be in the semi-finals," he said. "We had quality and commitment to go further. This was not lacking, but unfortunately football has these moments. 

"It is very difficult and sad to accept this. I can't say anything about my team-mates. They've all been fantastic since the beginning of the tournament.

"It is very difficult to express in words. It is a difficult and sad moment for us. We had the ambition and quality for more. There is always something else that we can leave on the field. 

"But I repeat, the delivery and commitment was total. The big difference was that we couldn't score goals, and they knew how to defend very well."

Fernando Santos has "no regrets" over leaving Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench despite Portugal crashing out of the World Cup with a 1-0 defeat to Morocco on Saturday.

Youssef En-Nesyri's header gave Morocco the lead in the 42nd minute, and Santos' Portugal side were unable to break through their opponent's resolute defence as they were eliminated at the quarter-final stage.

Santos left Ronaldo out of the starting XI for the 6-1 thumping of Switzerland in the round of 16, with his replacement Goncalo Ramos scoring a hat-trick.

The head coach omitted Ronaldo once again against Morocco, but this time Ramos failed to make an impact, as Portugal were dumped out despite Ronaldo's introduction shortly into the second half.

Asked if he regretted not starting Ronaldo, Santos told reporters: "No, I don't think so. I have no regrets, no regrets.

"This was a team that played very well against Switzerland. Cristiano Ronaldo is a great player, he came in when we thought it was necessary. No, I have no regret."

Ronaldo was left on the bench against Switzerland because of his negative reaction to being substituted against South Korea in Portugal's final group game.

The 37-year-old was heavily criticised after the round-of-16 match, but Santos does not feel that fan reaction had any influence on Ronaldo's limited impact against Morocco, after which the forward was shown in tears going down the tunnel.

"I do not think that the criticism he faced had any impact on the match," Santos added. "We have always been a team that is very united.

"If we take two people that were the most upset about the game, perhaps it was Cristiano and myself. We are upset of course, it affects us, but it's part of the game as a coach and a player."

Santos' contract as Portugal boss is due to expire in 2024, but it is rumoured he may resign after this World Cup exit.

Santos was asked whether he would quit as Portugal boss, to which he replied: "I have already discussed this with the president.

"Since 2014 the possibility of resignation has been discussed. This word is not part of our vocabulary.

"We did not go as far as we wanted, it's sad. Our team has great quality, we could have played better but there were games where we needed a touch of luck. That did not happen."

Cristiano Ronaldo was reduced to tears as he left the World Cup stage for surely the final time after Portugal's trophy hopes were scuppered by Morocco.

The 37-year-old, who can turn his attentions towards finding a new club, came to Qatar with dreams of a glorious farewell to the tournament he has graced five times.

Morocco were having none of that narrative, though, and their 1-0 victory at Al Thumama Stadium on Saturday made them Africa's first World Cup semi-finalists.

Ronaldo's pain was obvious, and the tears flowed as he was escorted down the tunnel towards Portugal's dressing room.

He made history in Qatar by becoming the first player to score in five World Cup tournaments, having netted in each edition since 2006. That landmark goal was a penalty in the group stage against Ghana.

But for all his achievements in the game, Ronaldo will not go down as a true World Cup great. He had a sensational club career with Sporting CP, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus, and won the Euro 2016 title with Portugal, but at the World Cup he has never scored in a knockout game. He played eight games beyond the group stage but could not find the back of the net.

Ronaldo will be 41 by the time of the next World Cup, and he is fast declining as a force, so it would be fanciful to even suggest that as a target.

He has spoken about wanting to play on until Euro 2024, but even that may be pushing it, given he is no longer a first-choice selection.

Freed by Manchester United recently after a turbulent start to the second season of his second spell with the Red Devils, it remains to be seen where Ronaldo will continue his career.

Against Morocco, as versus Switzerland at the last-16 stage, Ronaldo was only a substitute. He came off the bench early in the second half of the quarter-final, with Portugal needing a goal, but had just 10 touches of the ball and one shot.

It has reached tributes time for Ronaldo's career, with the FIFA World Cup's Portuguese Twitter page posting: "A myth. A legend. A machine. Thank you @Cristiano"

Morocco became the first African team ever to reach a World Cup semi-final as the Atlas Lions continued their fairytale run in Qatar with a 1-0 win over Portugal at Al Thumama Stadium on Saturday.

Walid Regragui's side saw off Spain on penalties in the last 16, but this was even more impressive and notable as Morocco ensured they will go where no other African nation has ventured before.

Youssef En-Nesyri had the honour of scoring what will go down as one of the most important goals in the history of African football as he powered in a header just before the break.

Portugal piled pressure on for much of the second half, introducing the again-benched Cristiano Ronaldo, but their efforts fell short much to the delight of the Morocco-dominated crowd.

Fernando Santos' side unsurprisingly enjoyed early control, but clear opportunities were non-existent.

Encouraged, Morocco looked dangerous on the break and the contest livened up after the half-hour mark – Selim Amallah blazed over from Romain Saiss' cut-back and the lively Sofiane Boufal shot at Diogo Costa from 25 yards.

As such, the Atlas Lions were good value for the lead when En-Nesyri towered above Costa to head in Yahya Attiat-Allah's cross after 42 minutes.

Portugal looked for a response.

Bruno Fernandes' dipping right-wing volley struck the crossbar, and he was subsequently denied a penalty after claiming to be tugged back in the box.

Ronaldo's introduction – just before Azzedine Ounahi wasted a decent chance – effectively ushered in complete Portugal control.

But Portugal created precious little until crucial late Yassine Bounou saves from Joao Felix and Ronaldo, as Morocco valiantly held on for another momentous result despite substitute Walid Cheddira's stoppage-time dismissal for a second booking.

Cristiano Ronaldo was named on Portugal's bench again as Fernando Santos stuck with Goncalo Ramos for the World Cup quarter-final against Morocco.

Ronaldo was dropped to the bench for Portugal's last-16 tie with Switzerland on Tuesday, and Santos' decision was rewarded as his side cruised to a 6-1 victory.

Benfica striker Ramos, Ronaldo's replacement in the starting XI, repaid his coach's faith by scoring a hat-trick and getting an assist, and he retained his place in the team on Saturday at Al Thumama Stadium.

Santos made just one change to the team that beat Switzerland, bringing in Ruben Neves for William Carvalho in midfield.

That meant Manchester City's Joao Cancelo also remained on the bench, with Diogo Dalot preferred at right-back and Raphael Guerreiro keeping his place on the left.

Morocco coach Walid Regragui was forced into two changes, with key defenders Noussair Mazraoui and Nayef Aguerd unavailable. Yahia Attiyat Allah and Jawad El Yamiq came in for the duo.

The Atlas Lions are appearing in the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time, while they are just the fourth African side to reach the last eight in the tournament's history.

Fernando Santos' decision to drop Cristiano Ronaldo from Portugal's team might have come too late in the eyes of some.

Ronaldo started each of Portugal's World Cup group games in Qatar, though only managed one goal, converting a penalty he won in the opening win over Ghana.

That goal made history, as Ronaldo has often done. He is the only male player to have scored at five World Cups.

Yet after frustrating Santos with his reaction to a South Korea player's taunts in Portugal's final Group H game, Ronaldo found himself on the bench for Tuesday's 6-1 rout of Switzerland.

His replacement Goncalo Ramos scored a hat-trick, surely ensuring the bench is where Ronaldo will stay for Saturday's quarter-final against Morocco, the fourth African team to make the last eight of a World Cup.

Yet Ronaldo's omission might have afforded another Portuguese youngster (and like Ramos, one who made his name with Benfica) a chance to finally prove his worth.

Struggling to live up to the hype

Joao Felix seemed set to be a superstar when he broke into the Benfica side in the 2018-19 season.

He directly contributed to 22 goals in 26 league appearances, netting 15 and assisting seven, creating 29 chances. Joao Felix was awarded the Primeira Liga's Best Young Player of the Year and the Golden Boy award, and a huge move was on the cards.

Atletico Madrid, cash-rich with the imminent sale of Antoine Griezmann to Barcelona, pipped the rest of Europe's elite to the 19-year-old boy wonder, paying a club-record €126million to take him to the Spanish capital.

Yet, for whatever reason, whether that be Diego Simeone's pragmatic approach or Joao Felix suffering the inconsistencies that many young players do, it hasn't quite clicked at Atleti.

He has started only 53 games across three and a half years, and in only one season has he created over 20 chances. Joao Felix's best return for goals and assists combined has been 12, coming in the 2020-21 and 2021-22 campaigns.

 

Sure, at times it has looked as though it has started to fall into place, but a player of Joao Felix's talents needs the space and time and tactical flexibility to show what he can do. Too often under Simeone, that has not been the case.

During his time at Atleti, Joao Felix – whose best role falls somewhere between a striker and an attacking midfielder – has played second fiddle to or had to complement Luis Suarez, Alvaro Morata, Griezmann (the man he was brought in to replace, of course) and even Marcos Llorente, before Simeone moved the Spain international to a wide berth.

It has been a similar story on the international stage. Ronaldo has been the player Santos has worked his system around, the entire team geared to getting the best out of international football's record goalscorer.

That has seen Joao Felix often fall to the wayside, what with Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, Andre Silva and Diogo Jota, who has missed out in Qatar through injury, among the other attackers he has to compete with.

Time to shine

Yet he has been entrusted in Qatar, starting all three of Portugal's truly meaningful matches, scoring in the 3-2 opening win over Ghana. The first two of those starts came alongside Ronaldo, but against Switzerland Joao Felix was placed on the left of a narrow front three that included Ramos and Bruno Fernandes.

Joao Felix thrived. With freedom to drift, he set up two of Portugal's goals, becoming the nation's first player to provide two assists in a World Cup knockout game, and his performance even drew comparisons to Kaka.

It was Joao Felix's neat ball through to Ramos from the half-space on the left side of Switzerland's box that led to Portugal's 17th-minute opener. 

 

Having received the ball on the cusp of the opposition area midway through the second half, Joao Felix had the awareness to get his head up rather than shoot, and the poise to find another perfect pass through to Ramos for Ronaldo's replacement to wrap up his hat-trick. 

His 42 touches occurred across the pitch, while he lost possession only seven times, a particularly impressive figure given, of Portugal's players, only Bernardo Silva (15) attempted more passes in the final third than the 23-year-old (11).

Santos must stick to his guns

"I don't think it's mandatory to pass to Cristiano. We try to pass to the player that's available," said Joao Felix when previewing the meeting with Morocco.

"Independent of Cristiano being on the field, we have the same tactics, the ones we've been using for all four games. He has skills that other players have and vice-versa. We, as a team, have our own identity and we focus on that."

Joao Felix might have claimed that the tactics do not change, but it seemed clear against Switzerland that, without Ronaldo in the side, Portugal had found their groove.

The signs had been there even before the World Cup, though. Ronaldo did not feature in a pre-tournament friendly against Nigeria and Portugal won 4-0.

Portugal had 15 shots against the Swiss, and remarkably got nine of those on target and finished with 2.28 expected goals (xG).

 

In the three matches Ronaldo had started, Portugal had only finished with an xG of 2.0 once – in their opening win over Ghana, and a penalty in that game will have accounted for a large chunk of that value.

With Portugal playing so well against Switzerland, Santos must stand by his decision.

Yes, Ronaldo can still provide great moments, but he can do so off the bench. At 37, this will likely be his last World Cup, if not his final major tournament.

Joao Felix, who could well leave Atleti for pastures new in January, is the future, and he has proved capable of taking up the mantle.

Cristiano Ronaldo "never told" Erik ten Hag he wanted to leave Manchester United before the forward's explosive interview aired.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner parted ways with United by mutual consent last month after a wide-ranging interview with Piers Morgan on TalkTV in which he said he felt "betrayed" by the club.

Ronaldo also lamented "zero" progress since Alex Ferguson departed Old Trafford in 2013, while hitting out at former interim boss Ralf Rangnick and stating he had "no respect" for current United manager Ten Hag.

The Dutchman claimed the 37-year-old never came to him to discuss his desire to leave, though Ten Hag conceded there was no way back for Ronaldo after his public comments.

"Until that moment he never told me 'I want to leave'," Ten Hag told reporters in Spain, where United are training during the mid-season break for the World Cup.

"I have seen most of it. I have to do it. It is part of my job. The interview, I think, as a club you can't accept. To make that step he knew the consequences. But before, he never told me."

An unceremonious exit will somewhat tarnish Ronaldo's legacy at United, for who he had made just four starts in the opening 14 Premier League games this season.

Ronaldo suggested he may be open to leaving ahead of the 2022-23 campaign, according to Ten Hag, though the Portugal forward opted to stay after consideration.

"In the summer we had one talk," he added. "He came in and said 'I will tell you in seven days if I want to stay'. He came back and said he did. Until that moment [the interview] I never heard anything [else].

"I like to work with world-class players. I know they can make a difference and help you to achieve your objectives.

"I wanted him to stay from the first moment until now. I did everything to bring him into the team because I value his quality.

"We wanted him to be part of our project and for him to contribute to Manchester United because he is a great player and has such a great history."

Ronaldo has been widely linked with a big-money move to Saudi Arabian side Al Nassr but Ten Hag has little interest in what the striker does next as his focus remains with United.

"I don't want to spend energy on that. It is the past. We want a new future of Manchester United and he didn't want to be part of it," he continued.

"All my accountability is in favour of the club and the team. They are the decisions I have to make and it doesn't matter which person it is.

"It is about how we perform now. I believe our performances will confirm that we are going in the right direction."

Mesut Ozil described Cristiano Ronaldo as "one of the greatest athletes in sports history" and does not believe his former Real Madrid team-mate is being shown sufficient respect in the twilight of his career.

Free agent Ronaldo has fallen out of favour at club and now international level, having been named among the substitutes for Portugal's 6-1 win over Switzerland on Tuesday.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner is also currently without a club after his contract with Manchester United, where he struggled for playing time, was terminated by mutual consent.

Ronaldo's replacement on Tuesday, Benfica youngster Goncalo Ramos, scored a hat-trick against Switzerland and is now set to keep his place for Saturday's quarter-final tie with Morocco.

Istanbul Basaksehir midfielder Ozil played alongside Ronaldo in the Spanish capital between 2010 and 2013, and has taken to social media to launch a robust defence of his former team-mate.

"I really don't get where this constant negativity from the press about Cristiano comes from," he wrote on Twitter.

"The media is just trying to get clicks, and pundits who don't have a career anymore just want to get attention with his big name and try to make him look bad.

"He is soon 38 years old - so what's the surprise that he doesn't score 50 goals a season anymore? Every football fan out there should be happy to have seen him playing world-class football for 20 years.

"I don't think anyone from the new generation will be able to match his numbers again. He will forever be in his own category. Everyone should show more respect to one of the greatest athletes in sports history."

Cristiano Ronaldo has never asked to leave the Portugal squad at the World Cup, but coach Fernando Santos did admit the veteran striker was not happy at being left out against Switzerland.

The 37-year-old was omitted for the round of 16 clash with Switzerland with Portugal cruising to a 6-1 win in his absence to set up a quarter-final clash with Morocco on Saturday.

Reports had suggested there had been a major fall-out between Santos and Ronaldo with the latter threatening to walk out, but that was flatly denied.

Santos said: "We had a conversation. I don't do that with all the players but he's the captain of the squad. You know what he represents for Portuguese football, for the Portuguese people and for the national team.

"It was on the day of the match after lunch. I explained to him why he would not play and said in terms of our strategy 'I think it would be better if you did not start. I think the game will be difficult and I will save you for the second half'.

"Cristiano was obviously not very happy as he has always been a starting player. But we had a normal conversation in which I explained my points and he accepted them.

"He never told me he wanted to leave the national team."

Santos often wears the look of an exasperated man but he was especially perplexed by the repeated questions relating to the former Manchester United and Real Madrid star.

"It's high time we stopped with this conversation and look at what he did in the match," he added.

"He warmed up with his colleagues, he celebrated all the goals and he was the one who invited the players to applaud the fans at the end. It's time for you [the media] to leave Cristiano alone.

"Ninety per cent of the questions are about Cristiano."

Ronaldo's replacement against Switzerland, Goncalo Ramos, scored a hat-trick as part of a team that displayed more verve and attacking threat than in previous games in Qatar.

Santos refused to confirm whether Ramos would keep his place against Morocco or if Ronaldo would return.

"Just because a team wins doesn't mean you can't change it," he said. "The team we play on Saturday will present different challenges, they are a very different team to Switzerland.

"They are well-organised with many players who play for the biggest clubs in the world. This will not be an easy game."

Playmaker Joao Felix was another who shone against the Swiss, arguably playing his best game of the tournament. Asked if he felt the shackles had been released with Ronaldo absent, he said: "I don't think it's mandatory to pass to Cristiano. We try to pass to the player that's available. 

"Independent of Cristiano being on the field, we have the same tactics, the ones we've been using for all four games. He has skills that other players have and vice-versa. We, as a team, have our own identity and we focus on that."

Portugal may have looked better without Cristiano Ronaldo in the last 16, but Morocco coach Walid Regragui is hoping to see the superstar forward on the bench again.

Ronaldo was dropped by Fernando Santos after angering the Portugal coach with an exchange in their final World Cup group game against South Korea.

The 37-year-old's absence was not felt against Switzerland, however, as Portugal won 6-1, with Goncalo Ramos replacing Ronaldo and scoring a stunning hat-trick.

Santos will surely stick with the same team again when his side take on Morocco in the quarter-finals, but Regragui would prefer that to be the case.

"I don't know if Ronaldo will start. I hope he won't," Regragui said. "As a coach, I know he's one of the best players in history. I'd be delighted if he didn't play.

"But we're not going to focus on Portugal. They're hungry, they also want to get into the history books.

"We're going to have more supporters in the stadium, and we can do it."

Throughout his pre-match news conference on Friday, Regragui outlined his ambition to make history, with Morocco already enjoying their best run at a World Cup.

Discussing pre-tournament predictions that had Morocco failing in the group stage, he said: "They all thought they knew who was going to win the World Cup. We are here, too.

"Our players are hungry. We're not satisfied with what we've done so far."

Cristiano Ronaldo's acrimonious Manchester United exit "won't affect" his legacy at Old Trafford, former team-mate Diego Forlan told Stats Perform.

United announced earlier this month they had reached a mutual agreement with Ronaldo to terminate his contract with immediate effect, following a controversial interview prior to the World Cup.

The Portugal captain, who scored 145 goals in 346 appearances for the club, did not hold back with his array of criticisms, including ones directed towards manager Erik ten Hag, and it became apparent he was on borrowed time at Old Trafford.

Forlan played alongside Ronaldo during the latter's debut season with the Red Devils in 2003-04, and the ex-Uruguay forward was disappointed at the nature of his former team-mate's departure.

"It won't affect [his legacy], but obviously it wasn't the best [exit]," he said. "The truth is that it was a pity, because we are talking about one of the best players in history, a great professional and a club that is an example.

"The fact that it's broken, it is a real shame. Because he, like other great footballers that were players at the club, were ambassadors of the club itself.

"In general, these kind of players have the chance to play where they want, but maybe not where they would prefer now, because of their age.

"Some clubs would love to have them, but today it is more difficult because clubs look more at numbers and age, and the teams start taking other decisions. But will have to see what motivates him, what he likes and which options of different clubs will be available for him." 

Controversy has followed Ronaldo to the World Cup, where Portugal were forced to deny reports he had quit the squad after being dropped to the bench for the thumping 6-1 win over Switzerland in the last 16.

That came after head coach Fernando Santos criticised his reaction to being substituted against South Korea, and it remains to be seen if Ronaldo will feature in their quarter-final showdown with Morocco on Saturday.

This is likely to be the 37-year-old's swansong at the finals, while the same can be said of long-time rival Lionel Messi, with Argentina set to face the Netherlands in the last eight.

Should this be the last stand for both players on the world's biggest stage, Forlan believes seeing either of them lift the trophy would provide a fitting ending to their international careers.

"It is what they are looking for," he added. "They have so many titles, many of them repeated many times, that it would be the grand finale, to end with a World Cup."

The former Uruguay captain, who was the joint-top scorer as La Celeste reached the 2010 semi-finals, is backing leading scorer Kylian Mbappe to go on and land the Golden Boot.

 "[The Golden Boot race] will depend on the team, how far it goes," he said. "If France has the chance to reach the final, I think that Mbappe has enough goals to be able to win the Golden Boot." 

A move to bring Cristiano Ronaldo to Paris Saint-Germain would be "impossible", according to club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi.

Ronaldo and Manchester United parted ways after an explosive interview in which the Portugal star said he felt "betrayed" by senior figures at the club, while claiming to have "no respect" for manager Erik ten Hag.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner's exit has led to much discussion over his next club, with Ligue 1 giants PSG one of the teams rumoured to be interested in making a move for the 37-year-old.

But PSG president Al-Khelaifi ruled out any potential deal, although he did speak highly of the former Real Madrid man.

"He's a legend, he's a star," Al-Khelaifi told Sky Sports News. "The footballer, I admire and love him as a player and professional. A fantastic player.

"He's 37 now – he's doing amazing. But every single club wants to sign him too. The problem today for us is we have the position [filled] – his position – so it's not easy to replace the position that we have with him.

"It would be impossible, honestly, for us."

One of those players PSG have in Ronaldo's position is Kylian Mbappe, who is currently leading the goalscoring charts at the World Cup in Qatar with France.

Mbappe was heavily linked with a move from PSG to Real Madrid earlier this year, but the 23-year-old instead signed a bumper new contract to stay in the French capital.

Al-Khelaifi believes it was vital to keep Mbappe at PSG, saying: "For me he's a very top, top player and a top human being, professional.

"For me it was really key he stayed and he didn't leave for free. That's another important point.

"As I always said, I always trusted him, trusted his family because we created something of a special relation with the player and them and that's why… he's Parisian, he's French and he's proud always to be in France."

Cristiano Ronaldo must understand "time passes for everyone" and accept he may no longer be a regular pick for Portugal, former Brazil defender Junior has told Stats Perform.

Free agent Ronaldo has fallen out of favour at club and now international level, having been named among the substitutes for Portugal's 6-1 win over Switzerland on Tuesday.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner is also currently without a club after his contract with Manchester United, where he struggled for playing time, was terminated by mutual consent.

Ronaldo's replacement, Benfica youngster Goncalo Ramos, scored a hat-trick against Switzerland and is now set to keep his place for Saturday's quarter-final tie with Morocco.

Junior, who earned 74 caps for Brazil and appeared at two World Cups, believes Portugal boss Fernando Santos deserves praise for his huge selection call.

"You need to have the courage to put Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench and the coach did," Junior said.

"And there was the answer he got - it was Goncalo Ramos scoring three goals. It's not just for the goals, but for his collective behaviour, I'm talking about the game as a whole.

"Time passes for everyone. Naturally, Cristiano will understand this in the best way so that he can continue to have the great respect that the group has for him. 

"He is the main player of the Portuguese national team for the last 10 years. Just look at everything the Portuguese team did before and after. But time passes for everyone."

Portugal are joined in the last eight of Qatar 2022 by next opponents Morocco, Argentina, the Netherlands, Brazil, Croatia, France and England.

Record five-time champions Brazil, who beat South Korea 4-1 in the last 16, remain the favourites of many to end their 20-year drought and lift the trophy once again.

Richarlison has arguably been Brazil's best player so far in Qatar, the Tottenham man's three goals placing him joint-second in the goalscoring charts behind Kylian Mbappe.

He has led the line in three of Brazil's four games, the exception being the loss to Cameroon when Tite heavily rotated, and Junior has been impressed by the versatile forward.

"Richarlison rebuilt himself within the national team because he was a player who had much more visibility playing on the wings previously," Junior said. 

"When we see him playing the role of centre-forward, we see that he has recovered and is now in the starting line-up. 

"On the sides of the pitch, it'd be difficult for him with Vinicius Junior, Raphinha and Neymar who also play there. So, he started to evolve exactly in that centre-forward position. 

"The goal he scored with a volley in the first game is from a player who has great capacity and great resources when a situation like that presents itself."

 

Tite has made full use of his squad, so much so that he has already used all 26 members of his group – the most ever fielded by a team at a single World Cup.

The Brazil head coach brought on third-choice goalkeeper Weverton against South Korea to complete the set, which Junior says offers an insight into Tite's character.

"As happened in 2006 with Rogerio Ceni, Tite has done the same with Weverton. He's made sure he not only travels to the World Cup but is also on the pitch.

"This type of attitude strengths the group a lot. It's one of Tite's most important qualities: valuing the whole squad, including the third keeper, who rarely plays at a World Cup."

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