The pictures of his tearful farewell to the World Cup accompanied Cristiano Ronaldo during his short break with his family in the sun, as did the many unanswered questions about the future. The superstar gave up his big dream of the title less than 24 hours after losing with the Portuguese national team in the quarter-finals of what will probably be his last World Cup in Qatar.
"Winning a World Cup for Portugal was the biggest and most ambitious dream of my career," wrote the 37-year-old on Instagram after the 1-0 loss to Morocco. "Unfortunately, the dream ended yesterday."
Disappointing World Cup
It was arguably Ronaldo's last chance to cap off an impressive career with the World Cup. Apparently he no longer believes in another attempt in 2026 at the age of 41. He "fought hard" for his dream of the world title. From Ronaldo's last appearance on the World Cup stage, the pictures should now remain of how he, crying and sobbing uncontrollably after the 0:1, disappeared alone from the field of the Al-Thumama stadium.
The performance of the currently clubless superstar in Qatar was probably too disappointing for the prospect of another attempt in four years. In the knockout phase, Ronaldo came on twice as a joker, but could no longer exert any influence. In the completely disappointing 0-1 draw against Morocco, he looked helpless like the whole team. In a total of 570 minutes of action in knockout games at the World Cup, he did not score a single goal.
"Cristiano Ronaldo and I were particularly disappointed. Of course that hit us hard," said coach Fernando Santos, whose future is just as questionable as that of Ronaldo and veteran Pepe. The 68-year-old Santos, whose contract runs until 2024, announced a meeting with the head of the association: "We will deal with the contract issue with calm and composure." The 39-year-old Pepe, who scolded and lamented after the end and had previously broken his arm, said: "Now is not the time to talk about the future of Cristiano Ronaldo or Pepe."
Search for new club
But Ronaldo will have to deal with the question of how things will continue for him at the latest after the break with his family. While his team-mates return to their clubs after vacationing in the Persian Gulf or flying back home, Ronaldo has to start looking for a new employer. He may soon seize the opportunity to negotiate with Al-Nassr FC in Qatar's neighbor Saudi Arabia. According to media reports, the club has offered him a lucrative contract for two and a half years.
In any case, Ronaldo should not have advertised in the search for a club with which he can continue to play at the highest level in the Champions League with his performances in Qatar. The superstar is now the only player who has scored in five different world championships. And with his 196th cap, he also equaled the world record held by Kuwait's Badr al-Mutawa. But not much more than these impressive numbers and the pictures of crying Ronaldo remain.
Pepe criticizes referees
After the 1-0 defeat by Morocco, who became the first African team to reach a World Cup semi-final with their defensive tactics, the whole team felt that a great opportunity had been missed. "Sad end. From deep sleep to ultimate despair," headlined "Record". Disappointed Pepe, who also criticized the referee, said: "We tried to play as well as we could. We didn't expect it to end like this. What can you do? It didn't work at all, I'm really angry, but we gave it our all."
After all, Portugal's young generation around João Félix (23), Gonçalo Ramos (21) and Rafael Leão (23) have proven their talent in at least a few games, such as the 6-1 win against Switzerland in the round of 16. 28-year-old Bruno Fernandes also played a strong tournament. And while Cristiano Ronaldo's girlfriend Georgina Rodriguez accused coach Santos of putting "the strongest weapon" on the bench, it was evident that the Portuguese team didn't need Ronaldo anymore - and are even better without him. The newspaper "Público" already dared to ask: "Is this the end of an era in the Seleção?"