‘I felt sorry for him’ – Gary Neville claims Cristiano Ronaldo was let down by Portugal manager Santos at World Cup

GARY NEVILLE has admitted that he “felt sorry” for Cristiano Ronaldo when Portugal exited the World Cup.

They were eliminated in the quarter-finals, going down 1-0 to surprise package Morocco.

ITVCristiano Ronaldo left Portugal’s quarter-final in tears[/caption]

Gary Neville was sad to see Ronaldo upsetRex

Ronaldo, 37, had been dropped after the group stage, and was called upon in the 51st minute of the quarter-final with his side trailing.

He was unable to salvage the match, however, with Portugal being eliminated from the tournament.

The forward left the field in tears, an image that tugged at Neville’s heartstrings.

Speaking to Sky Sports, the pundit compared his old Manchester United team-mate’s situation to that of Lionel Messi – saying: “Messi has been managed by Argentina in terms of how the rest of the group have come around him, and they completely play to his strengths.

“Whereas with Portugal and with (Fernando) Santos having known Cristiano for so long, I thought he’d have done the same.

“It feels to me like something has happened within the tournament that’s meant the plan has changed and Santos has thought, ‘I need to leave you out.’

“But once you leave Cristiano out, it’s not just leaving another player out. It becomes a global story.

“I actually felt sorry for Cristiano in the end, when he was walking down that tunnel in tears. That’s never a good image.

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“You know he’s thinking, ‘this is it, I’m never going to play in this tournament again.’

“I wouldn’t class it as an underachievement from Ronaldo, I’d say it’s an over-achievement that he’s doing what he’s doing at the age of 37, it’s just the way it ended with him being out of the team.”

Santos, 68, was sacked by Portugal following his side’s exit – having insisted that he has “no regrets” regarding his handling of Ronaldo.

The veteran striker was dropped after the group stage following just one goal, from the penalty spot, in the three games.

His replacement Goncalo Ramos went on to bag a sensational hat-trick in the round of 16 thrashing of Switzerland.

Speaking after his side’s exit, Santos said: “I don’t think so, no regrets. I think this was a team which played very well against Switzerland.

“Cristiano Ronaldo is a great player, he came in when we thought it was necessary, so no regrets.

“If we take two persons that were the most upset, it is Cristiano Ronaldo and me. Of course, we are upset, but that is part of the job of the coach and the player.”

Neville, meanwhile, appears to be holding no grudge against Ronaldo.

The 47-year-old was criticised during the five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s interview with The Sun’s Piers Morgan – when Ronaldo accused him of using his name for fame.

Neville was also blanked by his old team-mate while working for Sky.

Having been axed by Man United last month, Ronaldo has been training at former club Real Madrid’s facilities in order to stay fit ahead of his next move.

But Carlo Ancelotti’s side aren’t thought to be interested in bringing him back to Santiago Bernabeu.

EPAFernando Santos was sacked after his team’s World Cup exit[/caption]

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