Cristiano Ronaldo is "a big failure of the World Cup" and has "damaged his legacy", former Germany international Lothar Matthaus claims.

Ronaldo has endured a turbulent six weeks at club and international level, having been released from Manchester United prior to the start of the tournament in Qatar following an explosive interview with Piers Morgan.

After scoring in the opening game against Ghana, Ronaldo appeared furious when withdrawn during the final group-stage match against South Korea and was subsequently dropped to the bench for the following two matches in the knockout stage.

He would not be missed against Switzerland, Goncalo Ramos scoring a hat-trick as his replacement, then Ronaldo came off the bench in a fruitless effort to stave off defeat to Morocco.

With 37-year-old Ronaldo now on the hunt for a new club, German World Cup great Matthaus has conceded he is unsure who will make a move for his services, delivering a damning assessment of the five-time Ballon D'Or winner.

"With his ego trips, Ronaldo has damaged the team and himself," Matthaus told newspaper Bild.

"There is no doubt that he was a great player and an absolutely lethal finisher. But now he has damaged his legacy.

"I find it hard to think that he can find a place in a team. I kind of feel sorry for Ronaldo.

While Ronaldo and Portugal suffered a quarter-final exit, the fortunes of Lionel Messi and Argentina were vastly different – as they celebrated glory after a dramatic penalty shoot-out triumph against France in Sunday's final.

That affirmed Messi as the "player of the millennium" in the eyes of 1990 World Cup winner Matthaus, who had a further jibe for Ronaldo.

"Ronaldo is of course a big failure of the World Cup, the opposite of Messi," he said.

"[Messi is] the absolute winner. He deserves it because he has given me and all football fans great joy with his qualities and the way he plays over 17-18 years.

"For me, Messi is the player of the millennium."

Frankie Dettori will call time on one of racing's greatest careers next year after the Italian superstar jockey announced his retirement plans.

The 52-year-old is a two-time winner of the Derby and has been British flat racing's Champion Jockey crown three times, also enjoying a record six victories at the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in Paris.

He famously won seven out of seven races at Ascot on September 28, 1996, arguably the pinnacle of his career even if it did not contain his biggest victories.

Dettori said he wanted to "stop at the top" and revealed seeing football legend Cristiano Ronaldo fall out of favour with Manchester United and Portugal recently played a part in his thinking.

Speaking on Saturday, Dettori told ITV Racing: "Next year, 2023, will be my final professional year as a jockey. It's something I've been thinking about for a while.

"I'll be riding right through. It will be my last Guineas, last Derby, my last Royal Ascot, so on and so forth, and finish at the end of the season, it could be Champions Day [at Ascot] or Newmarket, and then probably have the final farewell as a professional rider in California at the Breeders' Cup.

"I want to stop at the top. I think I'm still in that bracket of being good, and it was difficult, but I think it's the right time.

"I'm not making comparisons, but look at Ronaldo who was playing one minute and was on the bench the next, and I don't want to end up like that.

"I don't want to end up where I'm struggling to get rides in the big races. At the moment, I still have good horses to ride, and I want to finish like that."

Dettori has won 21 British Classics and has had 14 winners at the Breeders' Cup plus 77 victories at Royal Ascot.

His first UK winner came in 1987, aboard Lizzy Hare at Goodwood, and he has since had over 3,000 winners worldwide.

According to ITV, fellow great AP McCoy compared Dettori to footballing royalty.

"He's racing's Lionel Messi, you can't teach a kid to ride like Frankie Dettori," McCoy said.

Cristiano Ronaldo is too expensive for any Portuguese club to buy, according to Porto president Pinto da Costa.

Ronaldo had his Manchester United contract terminated last month after he criticised the Red Devils' hierarchy – including manager Erik ten Hag – in a controversial interview with Piers Morgan.

The Portugal captain created more headlines at the World Cup, where he was dropped to the bench for his country’s 6-1 win over Switzerland in the last 16, as well as their quarter-final defeat against Morocco.

The 37-year-old, who is using Real Madrid's facilities to train, has been linked with a move to Saudi Pro League outfit Al Nassr and the club where he started his career Sporting CP.

However, Da Costa thinks it is unlikely the five-time Ballon d’Or winner will return to Portugal due to his wage demands.

"It's up to him and the clubs interested, but in Portugal, nobody has the capacity to give him what he earns and still wants to earn," he said. "And he deserves that."

 

The Porto chief also confirmed that veteran defender Pepe is welcome to stay at the club as long as he is fit enough to play.

The former Real Madrid defender turns 40 in February, but shows no signs of slowing down.

He has played seven times for Porto this season and started four of Portugal's five games at Qatar 2022.

Asked if a contract renewal will be available for Pepe, Da Costa said: "As long as he can play and I think he will play for another five or six years."

Cristiano Ronaldo may decide to end his playing career after seeing his dream of winning the World Cup dashed, says his former Manchester United team-mate Patrice Evra.

Ronaldo was used only as a substitute for the final two games of Portugal's campaign in Qatar, which ended with a surprise 1-0 defeat to Morocco in the last eight.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner became the first player to score in five different editions of the World Cup last month, but all eight of his goals at the tournament have come in the group stage.

Ronaldo has been strongly linked with Saudi Pro League side Al Nassr since his United contract was terminated last month, but Evra believes he may hang up his boots.

"When I talked to him, we didn't talk especially about what he's going to do next. I don't know. I don't know if Ronaldo will retire," Evra told Sky Sports News on Friday.

"Sometimes at the end of your career you think, 'okay, I think it's time to stop', especially when you're not in the starting eleven with your national team. 

"Ronaldo wanted to play and be fit to win the World Cup with his country, this was his dream. Now he doesn't have that dream, I don't talk for Cristiano, but I won't be surprised if he retires. 

"Now, everything Ronaldo does, he's a bad person and a bad player or whatever, so I wouldn't be surprised if he decides to retire."

 

Ronaldo's great rival Lionel Messi has the chance to cap his career by lifting the World Cup for the first time on Sunday, having helped Argentina to the final with a series of talismanic displays.

Some have suggested Messi must win the World Cup to be considered the greatest player to have played the sport, but Evra feels the Argentina captain has already secured that status – alongside Ronaldo.

"He needs to win this World Cup? No. Him and Ronaldo are already the greatest," Evra added.

"Why does Messi need to win this World Cup? I think this is for the Argentina players to put him on the same level as Diego Maradona.

"Even when they say Messi does not have a good record with Argentina, he already played six finals with them. The debate is not whether Messi can be the greatest, he's already the greatest.

"But guys, let's not forget, Messi is the greatest and Ronaldo is the greatest, too. People have different opinions, and Ronaldo is there.

"It doesn't matter if he doesn't play the final, he's still the greatest. We have to respect every different opinion."

Fernando Santos has left his role as head coach of Portugal, bringing an end to a reign which saw him become the most successful boss in the team's history.

The 68-year-old departs in the wake of a World Cup quarter-final defeat to Morocco, a frustrating end to a terrific spell in charge that saw him lead Portugal to Euro 2016 and Nations League title triumphs.

His departure was confirmed by the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF), which said in a statement: "The FPF and Fernando Santos agreed to end the highly successful journey that began in September 2014.

"After one of the best participations ever by the national team in the final stages of the World Cup, in Qatar, FPF and Fernando Santos understand that this is the right moment to start a new cycle.

"It was an honour to have a coach and a person like Fernando Santos at the head of the national team.

"The FPF thanks Fernando Santos and his technical team for the services provided over eight unique years and believes that this thanks is also made on behalf of the Portuguese people."

Santos departs at a time when doubts remain regarding whether Cristiano Ronaldo will extend his own international career.

The most prolific goalscorer in international football history struggled for form at the World Cup, and with his 38th birthday coming up in February, his days as a force at the top level may be over.

Santos reduced Ronaldo to the role of substitute for Portugal's two knockout games at the World Cup, a 6-1 win over Switzerland and the 1-0 loss to Morocco.

While Ronaldo came off the bench in both games, his impact was minimal. Santos later said he had "no regrets" about dropping the five-time Ballon d'Or winner.

He still faced criticism from Ronaldo's partner Georgina Rodriguez, who posted on Instagram that the coach "decided wrong", adding: "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."

The titles that Santos won with Portugal are the country's only major honours, with a 1-0 victory over France in the Euro 2016 final made all the more impressive by the fact Ronaldo was withdrawn after suffering an early injury.

Portugal then hosted and won the 2019 Nations League finals, defeating the Netherlands 1-0 in the final, but they lost to Belgium in the last 16 at Euro 2020.

The shock defeat to Morocco prompted Santos and Portugal to part ways despite the head coach having a contract that was due to run until 2024.

Roma coach Jose Mourinho has been linked with the job, having previously expressed a desire to move into international football.

Should Portugal hire Mourinho, they would be taking on one of the most successful coaches of the modern era, who has led Porto and Inter to Champions League glory.

Besides his rich success with those sides, Mourinho has stacked up many more trophies during spells at Chelsea, Real Madrid and Manchester United, while he steered Roma to the inaugural Europa Conference League title last season.

Manchester United being sold by the Glazer family would be positive for the club, according to manager Erik ten Hag.

The Glazers, who have owned United since 2005, announced last month they were open to selling the club as they planned to "explore strategic alternatives".

There has been increasing pressure on the Glazers in recent years, with protests commonly seen from fans as frustration grew with the running of the club.

As United seek to compete with the financial might of Manchester City, as well as the new Saudi Arabian owners of Newcastle United, Ten Hag feels fresh investment at Old Trafford would be exciting news for the club.

"There will be more investment possible which is good," said Ten Hag.

"We [Ten Hag and CEO Richard Arnold] spoke about the culture we want, we spoke about objectives, goals and the culture and he confirmed it won't change.

"It will be even better because more money will become available for this project."

Liverpool's owners Fenway Sports Group confirmed they were looking for new investment in November, while Chelsea were taken over by American businessman Todd Boehly earlier this year.

Ten Hag believes increasing United's financial capabilities is necessary as they look to return to the top table of English football, having lifted just three major trophies since legendary manager Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.

"There's a change in circumstances when you compare [the Premier League] with five or 10 years ago," Ten Hag added.

"Newcastle are coming, even West Ham, maybe not now in the table but they have huge investment. Tottenham definitely and I don't need to talk about City and Liverpool or Chelsea.

"You can quickly count seven or eight clubs that can compete in this league.

"It's also about strategy, not just money. But it's clear that when you don't have the right players and quality players you will not be successful and achieve the targets you set."

After a difficult start to life as United manager since joining from Ajax, Ten Hag's men enjoyed an upturn in form as they went into the World Cup break in fifth place.

United resume their season against Burnley in the EFL Cup on December 21, before they return to Premier League action against Nottingham Forest the following week.

They will be without superstar forward Cristiano Ronaldo, whose bombshell interview with Piers Morgan led to his contract with the club being mutually terminated in late November.

Cristiano Ronaldo would be easy to coach and the "soap opera" surrounding his links to Al Nassr have been "important promotion" for the club, says boss Rudi Garcia.

Portugal great Ronaldo remains a free agent after his contract with Manchester United was ended by mutual consent following his incendiary interview with Piers Morgan in which he criticised the club's hierarchy and manager Erik ten Hag.

Reports surfaced earlier this month suggesting the Real Madrid legend had agreed an eye-watering two-and-a-half-year contract with Saudi Pro League club Al Nassr.

Ronaldo later denied any decision regarding his future had been decided, but Portugal exiting the World Cup at the quarter-final stage means he is free to focus on his next move.

Al Nassr coach Garcia would be more than happy to have the 37-year-old in his ranks, saying the situation would be similar to when he had Francesco Totti working under his tutelage at Roma.

"I can't say anything about Cristiano because otherwise it would immediately appear in the headlines," he told AS.

"What I see is that it has been a soap opera and it has been a very important promotion for Al Nassr.

"I think that any coach would be delighted to train a great star like Cristiano. I have always thought that the great players are the easiest to manage because they are very intelligent, I verified this with Francesco Totti at Roma."

According to Garcia, if circumstances had played out differently he would already have experienced what it is like to coach Ronaldo.

The Frenchman claimed to have been in discussions about taking over United on a temporary basis following Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's dismissal before the Red Devils plumped for Ralf Rangnick instead.

"In November 2021, I was very close to going to United," he added. 

"They chose Ralf Rangnick, but I met twice with John Murtough and Darren Fletcher [United's director of football and technical director]. 

"I came very close to coaching this club and was very motivated to go, who wouldn't be motivated to coach United? 

"United's simple interest has allowed me to be sure of my ambitions in the future."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic believes it is "already written" Lionel Messi will win the World Cup with Argentina and thinks the full truth about Cristiano Ronaldo's Manchester United exit will never come to light.

Messi has been influential in Argentina's run to the semi-finals in Qatar where La Albiceleste will face Croatia on Tuesday.

Should Messi lift the most prestigious international trophy of all with his country, it will further enhance claims the Argentina legend is the greatest to have played the game.

Milan veteran Ibrahimovic, a former team-mate of Messi's at Barcelona, thinks this is the year the Paris Saint-Germain star will get his hands on the prize.

"I think it's already written who will win, and you know who I mean," Ibrahimovic said.

"I think Messi will lift the trophy, it's already written."

 

Cristiano Ronaldo, a long-term rival of Messi's in the greatest of all time debate, saw his own hopes of World Cup glory dashed by Portugal's surprise quarter-final defeat to Morocco.

It marked the latest blow in a tough period for the legendary forward, who left Manchester United by mutual consent in the wake of an incendiary TalkTV interview with Piers Morgan in which he criticised the club's hierarchy and boss Erik ten Hag.

Former United striker Ibrahimovic says with all sides defending themselves the actual events of what occurred will never be known.

"His exiting United, I think when things happen, we will never know the true story," he added.

"They say what they want to say, he says what he needs to say to protect himself, then you have the coach that says these things to protect himself. 

"Then the club says things – not like me, I will tell you how it really happened. But we are all different. Everybody is careful about their image. 

"For me the perfect image is being yourself. The true story we will not know my friend."

Pepe says Cristiano Ronaldo is "fine" after his emotional response to Portugal's shock defeat to Morocco in the World Cup quarter-finals on Saturday.

Ronaldo was left out of the starting line-up by head coach Fernando Santos for the second straight game after his angry reaction to being substituted against South Korea in the final group match.

Youssef En-Nesyri scored a towering header to give Morocco the lead, and despite Ronaldo's introduction shortly after half-time, Portugal were unable to find an equaliser as they were dumped out of the tournament. 

The loss elicited an emotional reaction from Ronaldo as the five-time Ballon d'Or winner left the field in tears, before a social media post on Sunday saw him accept his "most ambitious dream" of winning a World Cup with Portugal was over.

While Ronaldo held off from making a definitive call on his international future, Pepe feels the forward should be appreciated for his efforts in a Portugal shirt whatever he decides to do.

"Ronaldo is fine," Pepe told reporters after arriving back in Lisbon. "He's our Portuguese flag. He reaches all parts of the world.

"He gave us his contribution when he was called. We have to thank him and all his team-mates who did their best to be available for the coach."

Despite Portugal head coach Fernando Santos' contract running until 2024, it is rumoured he may step down after this World Cup disappointment.

Asked about Santos' future, Pepe explained: "I'm a player, I don't have to talk about it. I'm not going to go down that path.

"Unfortunately, we didn't achieve the goal we wanted. We tried to give everything to honour our country.

"It's football. There are these things. We have to learn from what happened so that the future is better for us."

Portugal's next match is against Liechtenstein in their opening Euro 2024 qualifier on March 23.

Cristiano Ronaldo's farewell to the World Cup was followed by tributes from sporting superstars Pele, Kylian Mbappe and LeBron James.

The Portugal captain said his dream of winning the trophy was over, after his fifth World Cup ended with a quarter-final defeat to Morocco.

Now 37, Ronaldo has conceded the Qatar 2022 tournament was his last World Cup, although he has left the door open for now on playing on in the short term.

Ronaldo lost his place in the side and was a second-half substitute in the last-16 win over Switzerland and also the Morocco game.

He became the first player to score in five separate World Cups, having netted in each edition since 2006, and is also now the joint most-capped player and highest goalscorer in international football history.

However, he never scored in a game in the knockout stages of the World Cup, a blip on an otherwise remarkably successful career.

There was a rapid reaction to an emotional message from Ronaldo on Instagram, where he described the goal of World Cup glory as "the biggest and most ambitious dream of my career".

NBA great James said Ronaldo was a "LEGEND!!", with the Los Angeles Lakers star adding a salute, thank-you and crown emoji to his message.

Three-time World Cup winner Pele, paying close attention to the tournament from his hospital bed in Brazil, wrote: "Thanks for making us smile my friend."

Mbappe, who helped France beat England 2-1 on Saturday to reach the semi-finals, replied to Ronaldo with three emojis. Those were of a goat, referencing Ronaldo's 'greatest of all time' credentials, plus hands together to signal his thanks, and a crown.

Ronaldo's recent interviewer and cheerleader, British journalist Piers Morgan, sent a message containing six sets of clapping hands.

Former Brazil striker Pato wrote to Ronaldo: "You are an example! You inspire people and children around the world. The same ones that criticise you are the ones who want the same success as you. You are a giant! Congratulations."

Jesse Lingard, Ronaldo's former Manchester United team-mate, seemingly got his acronyms muddled, however, as he posted "GAOT".

Cristiano Ronaldo has played his last World Cup match after Portugal's defeat by Morocco in the Qatar 2022 quarter-finals.

The 37-year-old put a full stop to his career on that global stage on Sunday, saying his "dream ended" with the previous day's loss, while leaving it open as to whether he will play on for his country in the short term.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner has achieved record tallies of 196 caps and 118 goals, and he may have his eye on becoming the first male player to earn 200 caps.

His club future is uncertain following an acrimonious departure from Manchester United, but his place in history is undoubtedly secure.

A record breaker, a history maker, here Stats Perform takes a closer look at the highs and lows of Ronaldo's Portugal career to date.

 

Euros bow ends in tears

Ronaldo is the European Championship's all-time leading scorer (14) and appearance maker (25), while he is the only player to feature at five separate editions.

He made his debut at the tournament when Portugal were the 2004 hosts. The then 18-year-old was named in the team of the tournament, but it ended in tears for him as Portugal suffered a surprise 1-0 defeat to Greece in the final.

Bittersweet Euro 2016 triumph

Despite reaching the semi-finals of the 2006 World Cup and Euro 2012, Portugal boasted a generally underwhelming record at major tournaments ahead of the expanded Euro 2016 tournament.

Fernando Santos' side scraped through the group as one of the best third-placed nations, then required extra time to see off Croatia and Poland – beating the latter on penalties – before overcoming Wales 2-0 in the semi-finals.

Ronaldo scored three goals during the run, but the tears flowed in a final once more as he was forced off injured after 25 minutes following a heavy challenge from France's Dimitri Payet.

Nevertheless, the animated captain barked out instructions alongside Santos from the touchline as Eder's extra-time strike gave Portugal their first major tournament victory, before lifting the trophy at the Stade de France.

 

All-time leading international scorer

Portugal were eliminated from the 2018 World Cup at the last-16 stage by Uruguay, with Ronaldo having hit a brilliant hat-trick in a group-stage draw against Spain. However, the captain was lifting more silverware the following year as his nation landed the inaugural Nations League crown.

More personal success was to follow in September 2021, when a pair of late Ronaldo headers snatched a dramatic 2-1 victory over the Republic of Ireland in World Cup qualifying, taking his international tally to 110 goals – surpassing the long-standing record of Iran's Ali Daei (109).

A scorer in five World Cups

Ronaldo's messy departure from Manchester United dominated Portugal's preparations for this year's World Cup in Qatar.

However, he made headlines for all the right reasons in his country's opening match against Ghana, with a successful penalty making him the first player to score in five different editions of the tournament.

Dropped to the bench against Switzerland

Controversy was just around the corner as coach Santos dropped Ronaldo to the bench for Portugal's last-16 win over Switzerland, having criticised his reaction to being substituted in the previous match against South Korea.

That ended Ronaldo's run of 31 successive starts at major tournaments for his nation – stretching back to their Euro 2008 clash with the Swiss – while they were subsequently moved to deny reports their captain had threatened to leave Qatar in the aftermath of the decision.

World Cup exit marks end of his dream of global glory

Ronaldo was again on substitute duty for the 2022 quarter-final against Morocco, with Santos sticking by Goncalo Ramos after the Benfica striker hit a hat-trick against Switzerland.

Sent into action early in the second half, with Portugal surprisingly trailing, Ronaldo's presence in attack could not spur Portugal to find an equaliser.

He had just 10 touches of the ball and only one shot, cutting a frustrated figure and departing the pitch in tears at full time, with Portugal beaten 1-0, ending Ronaldo's last hopes of lifting the World Cup.

It also meant he again failed to score in a knockout game at the finals. Across his career, Ronaldo drew a blank in all eight of his knockout stage appearances at the World Cup, including the 2006 third place play-off, going 570 minutes without scoring and taking 27 shots in the process.

Cristiano Ronaldo arrived at the World Cup in Qatar looking to cap his remarkable international career by lifting football's greatest prize.

But the forward ended his campaign distraught, being led to the dressing room in tears after Morocco stunned Portugal with a 1-0 quarter-final victory at Al Thumama Stadium.

Ronaldo's tournament was one to forget, with the 37-year-old unceremoniously dropped for his nation's best performance against Switzerland in the last 16 and again being reduced to a role off the bench against Morocco.

It was an underwhelming campaign, but one that will not detract from his previous achievements on the international stage, regardless of whether he continues to represent his country.

As well as becoming the all-time leading goalscorer in men's international football, Ronaldo led Portugal to their first major trophy at Euro 2016 before repeating the trick in the Nations League, and his Selecao records look unlikely to be matched any time soon.

With one of the all-time greats facing an uncertain future after seeing his "biggest and most ambitious dream" dashed, Stats Perform assesses the remarkable numbers behind Ronaldo's Portugal career.

 

Ronaldo has attracted plenty of plaudits for his longevity, deciding games at the highest level from his teenage years until his late thirties. The forward's incredible tally of 196 Portugal caps puts him 50 clear of his nearest contender – Wolves midfielder Joao Moutinho with 146. 

If his appearance record looks set to stand for a long time, his goalscoring numbers look even less likely to be challenged – Ronaldo's tally of 118 international goals is more than double that of Portugal's second-highest goalscorer (Pauleta with 47), and is unmatched in the history of men's football.

Indeed, Iran's Ali Daei is the only other player to have reached a century of goals in international football, hitting the net 109 times.

While Ronaldo's ability to reinvent himself as the ultimate goal poacher allowed him to prosper on the club stage, his international goalscoring prowess was by no means a later development.

Ronaldo failed to score on his first two Portugal appearances as an 18-year-old in 2003, but he has netted at least one international goal in each of the 19 subsequent years.

In 2004, a teenage Ronaldo hit the net seven times in 16 international appearances, helping his side to the Euro 2004 final on home soil and scoring at a rate of a goal every 145 minutes.

Ronaldo's most prolific year for Portugal came in 2019, when he scored 14 times in just 10 appearances at an incredible rate of 59 minutes per goal.

 

On the club stage, Ronaldo has carved out a reputation as the ultimate big-game player – netting in Champions League finals for both Manchester United and Real Madrid while outscoring every other player on Europe's grandest stage (140 goals).

Ronaldo has also appeared to prefer playing within his own continent in a Portugal shirt; his tally of 14 goals at the European Championships is an all-time record, putting him five clear of France great Michel Platini.

Ronaldo has also hit the net seven times in just 11 Nations League games, perhaps making it fitting that his greatest achievements have come when leading his side to continental glory at Euro 2016 and in 2018-19's Nations League campaign.

At the World Cup, it has been a slightly different story for Ronaldo. His tally of eight finals goals is certainly not to be taken lightly, but all of those efforts came in the group stages – no player has scored more often at the tournament without netting in a knockout tie.

Ronaldo did become the first player to score in five different editions of the World Cup when he struck a penalty in their group-stage win over Ghana last month, but that record will mean little in the context of his failure to carry his continental achievements into the world's most important competition.

 

Ronaldo may have failed to get his hands on international football's most prestigious trophy, but that has not stopped the likes of Johan Cruyff or Ferenc Puskas from being considered contenders to be the greatest player to have played the sport.

Proponents of Ronaldo's suitability for that title have often highlighted his raw numbers, and they certainly speak to an historic legacy.

Twenty-four of Ronaldo's 118 Portugal goals have been scored at the World Cup, European Championships or Confederations Cup, with just 20 coming in friendlies, demonstrating his status as a player who has thrived under the brightest of lights.

Age catches up with us all eventually, however, and Ronaldo's displays in Qatar attracted plenty of detractors. 

Where Ronaldo ranks among the greatest players to feature on the international stage will continue to be discussed, but his incredible statistics ensure he will always have a place in that debate.

Cristiano Ronaldo accepts his "most ambitious dream" of winning the World Cup with Portugal is over, but has held off from making a definitive call over his international future.

Five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo left the field in tears on Saturday following Portugal's shock 1-0 quarter-final loss to Morocco at Al Thumama Stadium.

The 37-year-old made history in Qatar by becoming the first player to score in five separate World Cups, having netted in each edition since 2006.

However, that landmark goal – a penalty against Ghana in Portugal's opening group match – proved a rare high point in a tournament that ended in frustration and heartbreak.

Ronaldo lost his place in the side and was a second-half substitute in the last-16 win over Switzerland and quarter-final loss to Morocco.

He did not discuss his future after the match, but the free agent took to social media on Sunday to confirm he will not take part in another World Cup.

"Winning a World Cup for Portugal was the biggest and most ambitious dream of my career," he posted on Instagram. 

"Fortunately, I won many titles of international dimension, including for Portugal, but putting the name of our country on the highest level in the world was my biggest dream.

"I fought for it. I fought hard for this dream. In the five tournaments I scored in over 16 years, alongside great players and supported by millions of people, I gave my all. 

"I left everything on the field. I never turned my face to the fight and I never gave up on that dream. Unfortunately, yesterday the dream ended." 

Ronaldo is both Portugal's most-capped player (196) and record all-time goalscorer (118).

He is currently without a club after having his contract with Manchester United terminated by mutual consent last month.

There had been suggestions he would call time on his international career after Qatar 2022, but the former Real Madrid man will wait before making a formal decision.

"It is not worth reacting hot," he said. "Much has been said, much has been written, much has been speculated, but my dedication to Portugal has not changed for an instant. 

"I was always one more person fighting for everyone's goal and I would never turn my back on my team-mates and my country.

"For now, there's not much more to say. Thank you, Portugal. Thank you, Qatar. The dream was beautiful while it lasted.

"Now, it's time to be a good advisor and allow each one to draw their own conclusions."

While Ronaldo fell short in his bid to win the World Cup with Portugal, he played a part in his nation's Euro 2016 triumph and their Nations League success three years ago.

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.

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