Cristiano Ronaldo was victimised at the World Cup over his political support for Palestine, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed.
It came with Ronaldo having ended his relationship with Manchester United by mutual consent last month, following his bombshell interview with Piers Morgan. He is now a free agent with Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr strongly linked with a move.
Leading European clubs have distanced themselves from a move, including Real Madrid – where the striker is the all-time club record scorer – who have no interest in a sensational return for Ronaldo. Sporting Lisbon have pushed away speculation also, as have Bayern Munich, while the 37-year-old's displays in Qatar won't have helped his cause if he wishes to continue at Europe's elite level.
Ronaldo was dropped from the starting line-up for Portugal’s Round of 16 6-1 demolition of Switzerland, with his replacement Goncalo Ramos netting a hat-trick. Ramos was again preferred over Ronaldo for the quarter-final loss to Morocco, with the former United striker coming on as a second half substitute in both matches.
The veteran forward is now reportedly spending time in Dubai where he is training alone – having briefly made use of the facilities of his former club Real Madrid – ahead of his next move, as he attempts to finalise his club future as soon as possible.
Turkish president Erdogan has now claimed, somewhat curiously and ambiguously, that Ronaldo was under a “political ban” because he “stands for the Palestinian cause.” No further details were given by Erdogan to back-up his comments.
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“They have wasted Ronaldo. Unfortunately, they have imposed a political ban on him,” Erdogan said at a youth event in the Erzurum province on Sunday. “Sending a footballer like Ronaldo to the pitch with just 30 minutes remaining to the match ruined his psychology and took away his energy.
Erdogan then added, in relation to the political comment: “Ronaldo is someone who stands for the Palestinian cause.” The Turkish president then continued, when speaking about the 37-year-old’s next club: "According to the information I have received, Ronaldo is now going to Saudi Arabia."
Despite Erdogan’s comments outlining Ronaldo’s stance on the Israel-Palestine conflict, the footballer has never issued any public statements on the situation. There have been multiple reports that were subsequently debunked and proven to be false while doctored photos have previously emerged online.
Ronaldo once posed with a Palestinian scarf but this was to represent the Palestinian Football Association when he was standing alongside their FA president Jibril Rajoub. Ronaldo has also been photographed presenting a football shirt alongside former Israeli foreign minister Israel Katz.