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Ronaldo is an ‘exceptional player’, says Ancelotti

TOPSHOT - Portugal's forward #07 Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his team's second goal from a penalty shot during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group H football match between Portugal and Ghana at Stadium 974 in Doha on November 24, 2022. (Photo by PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP)

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has sprung to the defence of Cristiano Ronaldo by highlighting his professionalism during his time at the Spanish club, after the forward lost his place in Portugal’s World Cup starting line-up.

Portugal’s most-capped player and all-time top scorer came off the bench late in their 6-1 win over Switzerland in the last 16, having been dropped from the starting side after an outburst following his substitution against South Korea.

Italian Ancelotti managed Ronaldo for two seasons at Real.

“Ronaldo probably still feels in his 20s because he’s fine, he’s got the answers he’s looking for in his body,” Ancelotti told Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport. “The competition has become tough.

“I’ve coached him (Ronaldo) for two years and there were no problems. In fact he solved them for me. Cristiano trains well, he pays attention to detail, everything was easy for me to manage. He is an exceptional player.”

Portugal’s Football Federation on Thursday denied media reports that Ronaldo had threatened to leave the national team during the World Cup after coach Fernando Santos dropped him.

Ronaldo, who has not scored since converting a penalty in Portugal’s opening game against Ghana, issued a statement saying the squad were “a group too united to be broken by external forces”.

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