As the 2022/23 Nation’s League campaign kicked off with its group phase, the competition served up football fans with a tasty Iberian derby as Spain hosted Portugal at the Estadio Benito Villamarin.
With European leagues having only concluded last week, both sets of managers made rotations to their line-ups ahead of this Group A opener, giving some of their star players some much-needed rest.
The biggest absentee from the starting 11 was Cristiano Ronaldo who manager Fernando Santos left on the bench and opted to start in form AC Milan forward Rafael Leao in attack.
Although the 37-year-old has continued to remain the focal point of this Portugal attack, scoring thrice and assisting once in the team’s last five matches, his gruelling season with Manchester United perhaps convinced Santos to bench Ronaldo.
The English club endured one of the worst seasons in its entire history and Ronaldo remained the only saving grace, whose 18 goals ensured a Europa League finish for United. The forward’s one-man show has prompted multiple rumours of him wanting out of the club due to a lack of support from the rest of the teammates.
But the words of new manager Erik Ten Hag have boosted the chances of the Portuguese international staying put and at the same time having a larger role in shaping the future look of the club on the field. “What I know about him is he did a fantastic job for Ajax, that he’s an experienced coach. Things need to change the way he wants,” commented Ronaldo earlier this week revealing his intentions to work with the Dutchman.
While he may not have had a direct impact during Thursday’s game against Spain, following the full-time whistle Ronaldo was spotted donning the role of a football agent as he exchanged shirts with Manchester United target and Villareal centre-back Pau Torres.
As per multiple reports, the 25-year-old Spanish international is at the top of Ten Hag’s wish list for the summer window and is the prime candidate to replace Harry Maguire in the Red Devil’s starting 11 next season.
Torres has emerged as one of the top centre-backs in La Liga over the past few seasons and once again stood out for Villareal who managed 14 clean sheets this season, the third-highest tally in the division.
Ronaldo going up to Torres to swap jerseys would appear as a sign of goodwill in the context of a potential move to England for the Spaniard and United fans would surely be thanking their Portuguese maestro for the gesture.