Cristiano Ronaldo's future is of no concern to the Portugal squad amid reports of a mammoth deal being offered to the 37-year-old, according to team-mate Andre Silva.

Portugal's World Cup campaign has endured the sideshow of Ronaldo's next destination following the mutual termination of his contract with Manchester United, leaving him a free agent for the tournament.

On Wednesday, ESPN reported that Ronaldo has been offered a mouth-watering deal by Saudi Arabian side Al Nassr worth £100million per year, with a contract said to last for three-and-a-half years.

Ronaldo will reportedly only decide his future after the conclusion of the World Cup, though that has not stopped many of his team-mates being asked about his situation.

Silva was the latest to find himself front and centre for the barrage of questions and offered a blunt response, suggesting the significance of Ronaldo's situation was far from influential.

"Does the market end tomorrow? Oh, just checking," the striker said. "Those questions concern nobody apart from Ronaldo. It does not affect the group at all.

"And in Ronaldo's case, he is a very experienced player and knows very well how to deal with these kinds of situations. The group is not affected at all."

While Ronaldo's second stint with United ended with an unceremonious exit, Silva made it clear that his worth on the international stage remains as high as ever.

"Regarding Ronaldo, Cristiano is our captain. He is a very, if not the most important figure in Portuguese football," he added.

"And of course, it's very important to be on our side and it makes the group stronger too."

Portugal have already booked their spot in the knockout stage of the World Cup, while a point in their final group match against South Korea on Friday will secure top spot in Group H.

The protester who halted Portugal and Uruguay's Group H match at the World Cup has been released without charge.

Mario Ferri entered the field five minutes into the second half at Lusail Stadium, forcing a temporary stoppage while security caught and ejected him.

The Italian was carrying a rainblow flag and sported a shirt with the Superman logo alongside the messages "Save Ukraine" and "Respect for Iranian Women".

Ferri confirmed on Tuesday that he had been released, and explained the reasoning behind his protest.

"FIFA banned rainbow captain bands and human rights flags in the stands," he wrote on Instagram. "They blocked everyone but not me. We want a free world that respects all races and all ideas.

"[This is] a message for Iran... where women are not respected. The world must change. We can do it together with strong gestures that come from the heart with courage.

"Save Ukraine. I spent a month at the war in Kyiv as a volunteer and saw how much people are suffering.

"Thank you for all the messages of love that I receive from the world. Breaking the rules if done for a good cause is never a crime."

Ferri is a frequent pitch invader, having previously interrupted matches at South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014.

Portugal went on to win Monday's encounter, sealing their spot in the last 16.

FIFA has confirmed Cristiano Ronaldo did not score Portugal's first goal in Monday's win over Uruguay after Adidas' match ball technology revealed there was no touch on Bruno Fernandes' cross.

Ronaldo was initially thought to have scored his ninth World Cup goal when he attempted to meet Fernandes' inswinging delivery with a glancing header, putting Portugal on course for a 2-0 win. 

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner celebrated the strike wildly, though FIFA later intervened to award Fernandes with his first World Cup goal.

Fernandes later made the points safe from the penalty spot as Portugal confirmed their place in the last 16, and the use of technology from match ball suppliers Adidas means his brace will stand.

A statement from FIFA provided to ESPN read: "In the match between Portugal and Uruguay, using the Connected Ball Technology housed in Adidas's Al Rihla official match ball, we are able to definitively show no contact on the ball from Cristiano Ronaldo for the opening goal in the game.

"No external force on the ball could be measured as shown by the lack of 'heartbeat' in our measurements. The 500Hz IMU sensor inside the ball allows us to be highly accurate in our analysis."

Speaking after the win, Fernandes said the identity of Portugal's first goalscorer was unimportant but outlined his initial belief that Ronaldo had touched the ball.

However, FIFA's ruling means Fernandes has scored seven international goals in 2022, more than twice as many as any Portugal team-mate, with Ronaldo hitting the net three times for his country.

Meanwhile, Fernandes' former Manchester United team-mate remains one goal shy of matching Eusebio's all-time record of nine goals for Portugal at the World Cup finals – all of which came at the 1966 tournament.

Uruguay head coach Diego Alonso believes his Real Madrid star Federico Valverde is best suited as a defensive midfielder, but that the team will need to perform better as a whole to allow him to "shine more".

Alonso's comments came after Monday's disappointing 2-0 loss to Portugal, leaving Uruguay alongside Mexico and Tunisia as the only teams without a goal through two matches.

Following their failure to score in their 0-0 opener against South Korea, Uruguay were well-handled by the Portuguese, controlling only 40 per cent of the possession, although they only narrowly trailed in expected goals 1.33 to 1.27.

Not short on talent, Uruguay fielded a starting XI that included Liverpool's Darwin Nunez and 135-cap veteran Edinson Cavani up front, while Tottenham's Rodrigo Betancur partnered Valverde in midfield.

Having played both in central midfield and on the wing for Madrid, Valverde was deployed in the engine room against Portugal, and despite their desperation for goals, Alonso made it clear that is where he feels the 24-year-old is most valuable.

"I think Federico has played full matches with us in the qualifying round," he said. "He’s played in the same position, even playing higher up. 

"I think he played as a defensive midfielder with a second pivot together with Bentancur. It's the same position that you saw today. He was even playing higher up, or as a wide midfielder. 

"I think his main skill is playing through the central lanes. With us, he's showed a great performance in that position.

"When you talk about shooting, I think he shot once [against Korea], it just missed the top corner. He was unlucky he couldn't score. 

"For us, he's an important player with many skills. When the team plays better, I'm sure he will shine more."

Despite their lack of potency going forward, Uruguay still have a chance to advance to the knockout stage if they can defeat Ghana in their final Group H fixture – a rematch from 2010's quarter-final where Uruguay advanced on penalties.

"We are looking for victory against Ghana, there is no doubt about it," Alonso said. "If we have to make slight modifications, that is what we'll do. 

"We will provide a team all the weapons we have at hand, so I have full trust in my players. I'm sure the next game will be hard, but we will go all out so that we have a victory and we qualify.

"We are talking about qualifying or not qualifying. It was very important back in [2010], but this is a different situation. It will be a crucial game, but has nothing to do with what happened 12 years ago.

"We need to feel free and move freely as we played during the second half against Korea. We need to gamble more and push forward, playing in between the lines and going for one-on-ones on the sides. 

"Sometimes, opponents also play, they stop you, they know which are your main skills and they try to counter your play. But we need to continue trusting our team, our skills, the players we have, and to also give them trust to develop their game."

France, Brazil and Portugal are the only sides to have already secured World Cup knockout football, with numerous teams facing a nervy final matchday as they bid to reach the round of 16 in Qatar.

Pre-tournament favourites Brazil breezed through Group G with wins over Serbia and Switzerland, while France became the first reigning world champions to escape the group stage since the Selecao in 2006.

Portugal made sure of their round-of-16 spot after Monday's Group H victory over Uruguay, yet the likes of England, Spain, Germany and Argentina all need results on matchday three to progress.

The Netherlands are another big name that have yet to confirm their place in the latter stages of FIFA's top tournament, while Belgium face a tense Group F clash with Croatia to avoid an early exit.

Here, Stats Perform takes a look at the permutations riding on the final selection of group-stage action in the Middle East.

Group A

The Netherlands are largely in control of Group A, needing to just avoid defeat against the already eliminated hosts, Qatar.

Louis van Gaal's side will also reach the round of 16 if Ecuador beat Senegal, who have to win otherwise Aliou Cisse's side will rely on a somewhat unlikely win for Qatar over the Netherlands to remain in contention.

Ecuador, who have impressed in their first two games, must win or draw against Senegal to progress. However, Gustavo Alfaro's men could go through in defeat if Qatar beat the Netherlands.

Group B

A win or a draw is enough for England against fierce rivals Wales. Yet, the Three Lions would still progress as long as they avoid a four-goal defeat against Wales, whose goal difference is six fewer.

Iran are guaranteed to qualify with victory over the United States, who know anything other than a win against Carlos Queiroz's side will see them eliminated from the competition.

Quieroz's men could still escape Group B with a draw, though goal difference would come into play if Wales pick up their first win at the tournament against Gareth Southgate's England.

Group C

All four teams can still make it out of an enticing Group C, with Argentina – who were among the pre-tournament favourites – needing to beat Poland to guarantee a round-of-16 place.

La Albiceleste could progress with a draw, however, and would be through in that instance if Mexico and Saudi Arabia also share the spoils.

Yet, if Lionel Scaloni's men are held and Herve Renard's men beat El Tri, Argentina will be eliminated. If Mexico win and Argentina draw, it goes to goal difference.

Poland would go through by avoiding defeat, but would be knocked out by a loss coupled with a Saudi Arabia victory over Mexico, who must win to have any chance of remaining in the tournament.

If Poland lose and Saudi Arabia draw, the two teams will have to be separated by goal difference, which will also be used if Czeslaw Michniewicz's side are defeated and Mexico win.

Group D

France are already in the round-of-16 draw and will top Group D as long as they do not lose to Tunisia and Australia do not defeat Denmark, otherwise the Socceroos would move level on six points with Les Bleus.

While victory would take Australia through, Graham Arnold's side would still reach the knockout stage with a draw unless Tunisia beat France, which would see Jalel Kadri's men progress on goal difference.

Denmark would grab qualification with a win over Australia unless Tunisia triumph over France, which would leave goal difference or goals scored to separate the Carthage Eagles and Kasper Hjulmand's men.

Group E

Spain are the favourites to progress from Group E, requiring a win or draw against Japan. Defeat would see Luis Enrique's side still go through on goal difference, unless Germany lose to Costa Rica.

Germany must pick up three points to stay in contention and would qualify as long as Spain defeat Japan, though a draw in the latter game or a win for Hajime Moriyasu's men would see goal difference needed.

A win for Japan over Spain would take Moriyasu's side through, while a draw – coupled with a stalemate for Germany – would also see the Samurai Blue make the knockout stage.

Costa Rica would earn a last-16 spot with victory and a point would also take them through if Spain overcome Japan. A draw in both games or a defeat for Fernando Suarez's side sees them eliminated.

Group F

Croatia will pass through Group F if they avoid defeat against Belgium, who require victory against the 2018 runners-up to guarantee a place in the round of 16.

Such a win for Belgium would leave Croatia needing already eliminated Canada to overcome Morocco, with goal difference coming into play to separate Zlatko Dalic's side from the Atlas Lions.

A draw is likely not enough for Belgium. They would need Morocco to lose to Canada and then rely on goal difference, though Walid Regragui's men (+2) hold the advantage over Roberto Martinez's side (-1) in the decisive metric.

Morocco would progress with victory over Canada, while a defeat would see Regragui's side reliant on Belgium beating Croatia for goal difference to be decisive between Dalic's men and the Atlas Lions for second.

Group G

Brazil have secured knockout football and will finish as Group G winners with anything other than defeat against Cameroon, who need victory against Tite's side and results to go their way to make the last 16.

Rigobert Song's men would be eliminated if they do not win, though victory is not guaranteed to secure progression as Switzerland could play out a high-scoring draw with Serbia to go through on goals scored, which is used if sides cannot be separated on goal difference – Cameroon are currently on -1 and Switzerland level in the latter metric.

The somewhat expected scenario of Cameroon losing to Brazil would see Serbia and Switzerland become a winner-takes-all clash. 

Dragan Stojkovic's side need victory to progress in that instance, while a draw would be enough for Switzerland. Goal difference would be required if Serbia (-2) and Cameroon (-1) both win their final encounters.

Group H

Portugal are already through and would top Group H by avoiding defeat against South Korea, who could still make a late charge for the round-of-16 stage should the result between Uruguay and Ghana go their way.

The permutations are straightforward for Uruguay and South Korea, who must win to avoid elimination, though qualification is not assured even with victory.

Both teams would be level on four points with victories, again leading to goal difference to separate. Yet, if Ghana beat Uruguay then South Korea's result against Portugal will prove irrelevant for Paulo Bento's side.

A draw for Ghana and a win for South Korea would also see goal difference required to split the two sides, with Bento's men trailing the Black Stars by one in that metric, which could mean goals scored comes into it.

Bruno Fernandes claimed "I don't really think it matters" after being credited the opening goal in a 2-0 win over Uruguay to secure Portugal's World Cup last-16 place.

The Manchester United midfielder scored twice as Fernando Santos' side guaranteed their passage into the knockout stage with a match to spare after downing Uruguay at Lusail Stadium.

Portugal's opener was initially credited to Cristiano Ronaldo, who appeared to faintly glance home Fernandes' 54th-minute cross, but FIFA eventually intervened and awarded it to the latter.

Fernandes sealed the points from the penalty spot in the closing stages and is now focused on securing top spot in Group H by avoiding defeat against South Korea on Friday.

"I don't really think it matters who scored the goal at this point," he said when asked about Portugal's first strike. "The feeling I had at the time was that Cristiano touched the ball. I was passing the ball to him.

"But what's important is that we were able to go on to the next round after a very important win against a tough opponent.

"The importance of being first [in Group H] includes winning the next game, which would allow us to come out of the group undefeated with three wins, and that's what we want.

"We know we will find a very well-organised [South Korea] team ahead of us. Our objective is to think match after match – to win all the ones in the group phase, we still have one ahead of us.

"We have to do our very best because we want to win all the matches."

Santos hopes Portugal can finish the job to top Group H, having won their opening two World Cup games for only the third time – also achieving the feat in 1966 and 2006 in runs to the semi-final stage.

The Portugal head coach saluted his players, while he also revealed that Nuno Mendes will be assessed in "24 hours" after limping off during the first half.

"All our team have a great performance," Santos said. "The game was difficult, our opponent was difficult.

"In the second half, we managed to play as we are used to; despite the fact that the Uruguayan players were playing very well.

"Our players responded with purpose, and we managed to win with fair play. We have a feeling of satisfaction as we can move to the next stage.

"[Two wins from two is] exactly what I wanted for my team. As I said back in Portugal, our team is very united, we have a very good team building, and now we are given the answers to what was asked of us.

"There is still a match to be played; we need to be careful with our considerations. We do want to be first [in Group H], but we are not first yet. As a result, we need to continue improving on our tactics."

Bruno Fernandes scored both goals as Portugal secured a World Cup last-16 place with a 2-0 win over Uruguay at Lusail Stadium.

The Manchester United midfielder broke the deadlock in a scrappy Group H clash when his 54th-minute cross, which was aimed at Cristiano Ronaldo, nestled in the far corner.

He then wrapped up the points with a stoppage-time penalty and almost had a hat-trick as Fernando Santos' side joined France and Brazil in sealing their passage to the knockout stages with a game to spare.

The win saw Portugal avenge their 2-1 defeat by Uruguay in the last 16 of the 2018 competition in Russia.

Chances did not fall freely during the opening half-hour, with neither side registering a shot on target. William Carvalho's sweetly struck volley was just too high, while Jose Gimenez sent a looping header narrowly over the crossbar.

The game's first attempt on target in the 32nd minute almost provided one of the goals of the tournament when Rodrigo Bentancur embarked on a jinking run through the Portugal defence.

But the Uruguay midfielder’s finish let him down, as he shot straight at Diogo Costa when clear on goal.

La Celeste were aiming to become the first nation to record six straight clean sheets in the World Cup group stages, but they were given a warning when Joao Felix hit the side netting in the 51st minute.

Fernandes then opened the scoring three minutes later when his attempted centre, which Ronaldo initially appeared to faintly connect with, evaded Sergio Rochet.

Uruguay looked to respond as Maximiliano Gomez rattled the post and Luis Suarez hit the side netting, but Portugal sealed victory when Fernandes calmly slotted home from 12 yards after VAR penalised Gimenez for handball.

Fernandes twice went close to completing his hat-trick in the dying moments, Rochet saving his volley before he rattled the woodwork from 20 yards.

Portugal and Uruguay's Group H match at the World Cup was interrupted by a pitch invader carrying a rainbow flag at the Lusail Stadium.

Just over five minutes into the second half, the individual in question forced a brief stoppage in the game after taking to the field.

The invader, who was also wearing a shirt with the Superman logo, also sported the messages "Save Ukraine" and "Respect for Iranian Women".

He was subsequently removed by security, while Iranian referee Alireza Faghani removed the flag in question.

The pitch invader's actions are the latest protest at Qatar 2022, where LGBTQ+ rights are heavily restricted in the host nation.

A planned show of solidarity with the OneLove armband from European teams was effectively forced down by FIFA, with Germany subsequently protesting ahead of their match with Japan with a covered mouth gesture.

The protest also makes reference to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war and continued demonstrations in Iran over the subject of women's rights.

Portugal and Uruguay play their final Group H games against South Korea and Ghana on December 2.

Portugal will be on a revenge mission when they attempt to make it two World Cup wins out of two against Uruguay on Monday.

La Celeste dumped Portugal out of the World Cup with a 2-1 victory at the round of 16 stage in Sochi four years ago.

Edinson Cavani's double ended Portugal's quest to be crowned champions in 2018, with Uruguay then losing 2-0 in a quarter-final against France.

Fernando Santos' side took their first step towards the knockout stage in Qatar by beating Ghana 3-2 on Thursday after Uruguay had been held to a goalless draw by South Korea.

Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring from the penalty spot to become the first man to find the back of the net in five World Cups.

It was by no means all plain sailing for Portugal, though, and goalkeeper Diogo Costa almost gifted Ghana a last-gasp equaliser when he rolled the ball out and was robbed by Inaki Williams, but breathed a huge sigh of relief when the forward slipped.

Forward Goncalo Ramos knows Portugal face a big test when they face Diego Alonso's men in their second Group H match at Lusail Stadium 

He told reporters on Saturday: "They are very strong and dangerous. [Diego] Godín is a great player, but picking out individuals in a team with so much quality, it's not worth it."

Ramos added: "I think a team with our quality has to be favourites in any game. A draw? We don't look at any game thinking about a draw."

Uruguay could become the first team to keep six consecutive World Cup group stage clean sheets in Al Daayen.

Portugal have lost just one of their past 13 group stage games at the World Cup, that loss coming at the hands of Germany in 2014

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Portugal - Bruno Fernandes

While it was Ronaldo who took the headlines yet again following the win over Ghana, Bruno Fernandes played a huge part and he can help Portugal dictate the tempo against Uruguay.

The midfielder provided the passes for Joao Felix to put Portugal in front for a second time, and for Rafael Leao to make it 3-1.

Fernandes created more chances than any of his team-mates and became only the second Portugal player to provide two assists in a World Cup match after Jose Torres against Brazil back in 1966.

Uruguay - Federico Valverde

While Uruguay were toothless in a drab draw with South Korea, Federico Valverde did his best to get them going.

The Real Madrid midfielder struck the woodwork late on and showed the quality that has made him an important player for the European champions.

Valverde is capable of causing Portugal problems in such a big game for La Celeste as they eye a spot in the round of 16.

PREDICTION

Portugal are well fancied to be sitting pretty on six points with one group match to play.

Stats Perform's AI model has Santos' men down as having a 50.5 per cent chance of making it two victories from as many matches.

Uruguay's chances of claiming a first win of the tournament are rated at 23.4 per cent, while a draw is 26.1 per cent.

Rodrigo Bentancur says Uruguay enjoy thriving when they feel like they are out of the spotlight, ahead of a World Cup reunion with Portugal on Monday.

Four years on from their last-16 encounter in Russia, which La Celeste won 2-1 thanks to an Edinson Cavani brace, the pair will meet in a crucial Group H clash at the Lusail Iconic Stadium.

Portugal headed into that 2018 showdown as favourites - and are tipped for success again this time around, having opened with victory over Ghana while Uruguay were held to a goalless draw by South Korea. 

But Bentancur says his side are happy to fly under the radar and quietly go about their business.

"I think it will be a different game," he said. "Football has evolved. Now, we play with more intensity. We will bring our A-game, we can do lots of things to hurt them.

"We always deeply respect our opponent. If not so many things are being written about Uruguay, then that is good for us."

Meanwhile, Bentancur is set for a reunion with former Juventus team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo for the first time since the Portugal captain's controversial exit from Manchester United.

"With Cristiano, I haven't had the chance to talk to him," he added. "The last match we spoke at was when we saw each other in London, when we played against Manchester United.

"But we have a very good relationship between the two of us. He's a great person and a great player. I'm sure I will greet him, we will talk to each other, and we will hug each other."

Cristiano Ronaldo has the personality to handle any pressure that comes with being Portugal's leading man, says Fernando Santos.

Ronaldo, the record goalscorer in the history of international football, came into the World Cup with his future uncertain, after an inflammatory interview with Piers Morgan.

The 37-year-old has since left Manchester United and is playing as a free agent for the first time in his career.

Ronaldo scored Portugal's opener in their 3-2 win over Ghana on Thursday, becoming the first male player to score at five separate World Cup finals in the process.

And Santos shrugged off the suggestion Portugal place too much pressure on their captain's shoulders.

"We have players that are more visible than others and they need to deal with that, with the high priority and pressure," Santos said in a press conference ahead of Portugal's second Group H game against Uruguay.

"They express themselves in one particular way. There are players who are more extroverted, those more introverted, the most important thing is they play as a group, play together as one team.

"As far as Cristiano is concerned, I've known him for many years, since he was 19, we have other players that share the same personality.

"Little by little he has gained more experience, and understands this pressure, but we also take into account other players, not only Cristiano Ronaldo."

Another experienced campaigner in Santos' squad is Ronaldo's former Real Madrid club-mate Pepe, with the 39-year-old centre-back potentially in line to feature against Uruguay after Danilo suffered an injury to his ribs in the win over Ghana.

"He's a monster, Pepe is a monster," Santos said of the defender. "Someone who has a huge role, there's no doubt."

Ronaldo started with Joao Felix in a front two against Ghana, though Santos also has Milan star Rafael Leao, who scored with his first touch after coming on a substitute, to call on.

Asked if he would consider starting the trio together, Santos replied: "Of course it's possible, we did not come here with labels of one, two or three starters.

"We will line them up according to our needs, I'm serious about it. We have choices, and no player will be excluded, but we should not address this with an individual perspective, but as a collective.

"That's what we did against Ghana. In the first half we played very well, Ghana could not enter our area. In the last 30 minutes we should have been more aggressive because I know my players are capable. We were perhaps overconfident, but we can be confident if we are more aggressive.

"Our advantage is that we have a plethora of players that we can use. Our players are free to play, the only thing that I ask them is to follow my instructions. We will not hold our players on a tight leash – we let them free."

Cristiano Ronaldo has been touted as a "total genius" for winning Portugal's controversial penalty in the 3-2 victory over Ghana in the World Cup by a FIFA member.

The 37-year-old tucked home Portugal's opening goal from the spot to become the first player to score in five separate World Cup tournaments, though the decision to award the penalty left Ghana furious.

However, a FIFA member has suggested that the awarding of the penalty was down to the play of Ronaldo, who was deemed to have been fouled by Ghana's Mohammed Salisu.

In a briefing in Doha, FIFA technical study group (TSG) member Sunday Oliseh declared forwards were "getting smarter" and believes it was Ronaldo's intelligence that led to the awarding of the spot-kick.

"Maybe the strikers are getting smarter?" he said, per the BBC.

"The Ronaldo penalty, people can say what they want about him, but the smartness to wait for that second, to touch the ball, continue his leg and then get the contact. That is total genius.

"Let's give strikers the compliment for getting smarter. VAR is also a major reason why this [more penalties being awarded] is happening. Referees can look at it three or four times."

Nine penalties have been awarded in the first 20 games of the World Cup, seven of which have been scored – the exceptions being Poland's Robert Lewandowski and Canada's Alphonso Davies.

That figure is on track to beat the total number of penalties at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, where 20 were awarded across the 64 matches.

Marcel Desailly believes Rafael Leao must become "ruthless" and "forge his character" following comparisons between the Milan winger and Thierry Henry.

Leao, directly involved in 10 of the Rossoneri's 29 Serie A goals this season (scoring six and assisting four), opened his Portugal tally in their World Cup win over Ghana on Thursday.

Desailly won the Champions League and two Scudetti during his five-year stint at Milan between 1993 and 1998 - the same year he was a team-mate of Henry's in France's first World Cup triumph.

When asked if he thought Leao was similar to Henry, whose national record tally of 51 goals was equalled by Olivier Giroud in Les Bleus' victory over Australia on Tuesday, the former defender told La Gazzetta dello Sport: "Calm down.

"It seems to me that Leao became a star before he even became a star. He has enormous potential, but he doesn't give me the idea of being ruthless. I ask Leao to forge his character."

Meanwhile, Desailly praised another Milan player in compatriot Theo Hernandez, who appeared as a substitute in France's 4-1 triumph over the Socceroos and could remain at full-back for the remainder of the World Cup following injury to his brother Lucas.

"Theo Hernandez can become the strongest in the world," he added. "He is a chameleon, he has the ability to change his function within the team."

Having regained the Serie A crown last season, Stefano Pioli's side are eight points adrift of leaders Napoli after the opening 15 matches in the Italian top flight.

The Partenopei are unbeaten so far in their quest for a first Scudetto since the 1989-90 season, but Desailly does not believe they will maintain their momentum throughout the campaign.

"I love Napoli’s energy," he said. "But I doubt they can hold on psychologically until the end. They don't have the squad to hold up."

Cristiano Ronaldo's club future could yet be in Saudi Arabia despite rebuffing a previous offer, with the nation's sports minister hailing him as a "role model".

The Portugal captain is without a domestic team after mutually agreeing the termination of his contract with Manchester United in the wake of a controversial interview.

It brings to an end an ill-fated second spell with the Premier League club, yet it could have been curtailed even earlier after the forward fielded bids from other teams during the off-season.

One of those was from an unnamed Saudi club, and now the country's minister of sports, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, has backed the possibility of another move to bring him to the nation.

"Anything is possible," he told BBC Sport. "I would love to see Ronaldo play in the Saudi league.

"It would benefit the league, the sports ecosystem in Saudi, and it will inspire the youth for the future. He's a role model to a lot of kids and has a big fan base."

Ronaldo's exit prefaced news the Glazer family, long-term owners of United, are reportedly considering a sale, after years of protests over the direction the club has headed under their watch.

Coupled with Fenway Sports Group, the owners of fellow Premier League team Liverpool, exploring their options, the door is open for potential further investment into the English top-flight from the gulf state.

Newcastle United are already owned by Saudi Arabia's state-backed Public Investment Fund (PIF), but while Abdulaziz has ruled out another bid from the government, he has suggested private investment could still be explored.

"It's the most-watched league in Saudi and the region, and you have a lot of fans of the Premier League," he added.

"From the private sector, I can't speak on their behalf, but there is a lot of interest and appetite and there's a lot of passion about football.

"We will definitely support it if any [Saudi] private sector comes in, because we know that's going to reflect positively on sports within the kingdom. If there's an investor willing to do so and the numbers add up, why not?"

Cristiano Ronaldo still has what it takes to play at the top level of club football, says Bernardo Silva, who insisted it was none of his business what his Portugal team-mate decided for his future.

Ronaldo scored Portugal's opener in a 3-2 win over Ghana on Thursday - a goal that sparked the match at Stadium 974 into life, as well as making the 37-year-old the first player to score at five different World Cups.

Having left Manchester United by mutual agreement earlier this week, Ronaldo was the focus of the Group H clash and stepped up to lash home a penalty he won midway through the second half.

Andre Ayew swiftly equalised for Ghana but quickfire goals from Joao Felix and Rafael Leao settled the contest, despite Osman Bukari's header setting up a grandstand finish.

Asked if Ronaldo would move to another leading club, Manchester City playmaker Silva told reporters: "That's his decision, that's the decision of the club that needs to offer him a contract, because now he's a free agent. That's his business, not mine."

On whether Ronaldo could still cut his teeth at the highest level, Silva said: "Yeah I think so, I think so.

"It depends on what he wants. I don't know what he wants with his life. He has to speak to his family and decide what he wants for his life.

"I support his decision in terms of it's his decision. He's my team-mate with Portugal. If he feels happy, we're happy.

"He worked really well. We knew it before – we know we can still count on him, not just with the goal but he worked very hard for the team."

On Wednesday, Ronaldo's former United team-mate Bruno Fernandes said it was a "dream come true" to have played with the forward at club level, as well as for Portugal.

Fernandes quipped after the Ghana game that Ronaldo thrives on proving his doubters wrong.

"I think Cristiano likes to work under that criticism from everyone, so I pray for all of you to keep doing that, so it gets the best of him when you guys do that," Fernandes told reporters.

"I said already, he is one of the players I looked up to when I was a kid. It was a dream come true in the national team, I did it at a club also – that's something amazing.

"I still share the space with him in the national team and the main thing for me is that Portugal in this World Cup does the best we can.

"If we do that, Cristiano will be happy, I will be happy, everyone will be happy."

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