Ronaldo downplays impact of tell-all pre-World Cup interview

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo is unfazed by the drama created by his explosive pre- World Cup interview on British TV and maintained Monday the atmosphere in Portugal’s squad was “excellent” heading into the tournament.

The Manchester United striker gave an impromptu news conference at Portugal’s training base in the outskirts of Doha where he attempted to quell any concerns his tell-all interview with Piers Morgan published last week had affected squad morale.

“The timing for me is my timing,” Ronaldo said. “I don’t have to worry about what others think. I am totally convinced this won’t have any influence on the national team.

“Every player, manager, president and kit man, they all know who I am, what I think. They know me since I was 11 years old. They won’t be influenced by what people say or write.”

Manchester United is weighing up how to deal with Ronaldo in the wake of an interview the club didn't sanction, which contained criticism of the attitude of some of his teammates.

And there was intrigue surrounding a seemingly frosty reception Ronaldo got from Bruno Fernandes, his United teammate, when they met up for the first time at Portugal’s pre-World Cup training camp in Lisbon.

That was also played down by Ronaldo.

“I simply made a joke with him because he arrived late due to his flight,” he said, “and I asked if he had come by boat. It was a joke and you (the media) did a storm.”

“Everything around Cristiano is always a reason for debate and talks,” Ronaldo added. “We see it on the TV news. It’s normal. I understand it. But I will repeat once again: the environment at the national team is excellent.”

This is likely the 37-year-old Ronaldo’s last chance to win the World Cup, the only major title missing from the bulging resume of one of the world’s greatest ever players.

So, is he feeling the pressure in Qatar?

“The pressure is more or less the same as always,” he said. “I have been dealing with it since a very young age. Sometimes I do it well, sometimes I don’t. It depends on the situation, moment and heat. I am not perfect, but I feel ready to take on the pressure when I have to.”

The fortunes of Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have long been intertwined and the Argentina star is in a similar position to his great rival as this will also probably be his last World Cup.

The two soccer greats created waves on social media by both posting a photo on social media of them engaging in a game of chess on top of a Louis Vuitton briefcase.

So, a Portugal vs. Argentina final, anyone?

“Being honest, I would like to be the one to give a checkmate against him,” Ronaldo said of Messi. “Let’s see. It would be beautiful. As it happened in chess, it would be magic to happen in football as well.”

Portugal's first group game is against Ghana on Thursday.

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AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80

Steve Douglas, The Associated Press