Fernando Santos has a contract to remain as Portugal’s boss until the end of Euro 2024, but following a disappointing World Cup campaign, it has been announced he will stand down now.
As soon as Portugal’s World Cup dream was ended by Morocco, the writing was on the wall for the despondent Fernando Santos.
And so it proved to be, with the Portuguese Football Federation confirming his departure less than a week after the defeat at The Al Thumama Stadium. “It was an honor to have a coach and a person like Fernando Santos at the head of the National Team,” a statement read on Thursday.
“The FPF thanks Fernando Santos and his technical team for the services provided over eight unique years and believes that these thanks are also made on behalf of the Portuguese people. The FPF Board will now begin the process of choosing the next national coach.”
While his time in charge of the national side ended in disappointment in Qatar, the legacy left by Santos will be felt for years to come.
Since taking over in 2014, Portugal has enjoyed the most successful period in its rich footballing history. Under his astute leadership, the Selecao lifted the European Championships in 2016 and then the inaugural UEFA Nations League three years later.
There’s perhaps no surprise then that the great and good of Portuguese football have been quick to pay tribute to the departing boss. “Thank you, Mister Fernando Santos!” Pepe posted on social media
“Thank you for your work, your leadership, your commitment. For the joys and victories over the years. Thank you for serving Portuguese soccer and Portugal excellently.”
Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes added: Many thanks to mister Fernando Santos. Thank you for the opportunity to represent our country and for your trust in us over the past few years,” he posted on social media.
“As a Portuguese, thank you for putting Portugal at the top of Europe and returning confidence and belief to a ‘small’ country that it was possible to be among the ‘big ones’.
“Moments of glory and joy and others of sadness and frustration, but history was made and will forever be marked in the hearts of all Portuguese.”
But for all of the tributes, it’s the one that hasn’t been forthcoming which is perhaps most telling. The image of Cristiano Ronaldo standing alongside Santos on the Stade de France touchline remains a seminal moment in Portugal’s footballing history.
The player and manager returned to Lisbon with the trophy aloft, the double act who finally managed to get the Selecao over the line in a major tournament.
However, five years later the duo’s relationship was significantly more strained. Santos publicly called out his player’s reaction to being substituted against South Korea, although that proved to only be the start of the controversy.
The decision to drop Ronaldo from the starting line-up for their knockout clashes raised significant debate across the world. That bold selection choice was instantly vindicated in the last 16 with stand-in Goncalo Ramos scoring a stunning hat-trick vs Switzerland.
But against Morocco, Santos was forced to call upon the 37-year-old, with the forward unable to conjure one last rescue act. The ex-United star’s partner Georgina Rodriguez did little to quash rumors of a fall-out posting a lengthy message following Portugal’s exit in Qatar: “Today your friend and coach made the wrong decision,” she posted to her 40 million followers on social media.
“That friend for whom you have so many words of admiration and respect. The same one who, when putting you on the field, saw how everything changed, but it was too late.
“You can’t underestimate the best player in the world, it’s the most powerful weapon. Much less should one stand up for those who don’t deserve it?”
Following his relegation to the bench, there was speculation that the player and manager had a frosty relationship with reported threats of leaving the camp, although Ronaldo strongly denied he ever intended on walking out on his country.
But actions speak louder than words – or in this case the lack of them. While his compatriots have been quick to hit social media, Ronaldo has remained silent. The world’s most high-profile free agent has 517 million followers on Instagram and updates his account regularly.
In this instance though…radio silence. Ronaldo suggested that his full focus would be on finding a new club once his commitments with Portugal concluded, but the lack of any message now speaks volumes.