Cristiano Ronaldo starts for Portugal vs. Mexico amid transfer speculation
Cristiano Ronaldo starts for Portugal in their Confederations Cup opener against Mexico, amid uncertainty about his future at Real Madrid.
A source confirmed to ESPN FC that Ronaldo wants to leave Madrid after being accused of tax evasion by Spanish authorities and believes he is being made an example of because of his status as a star player. The 32-year-old has been linked with a return to Manchester United or a move to Paris Saint-Germain.
The focus has been on the Portugal captain's off-field activity in the build-up to the game at the Kazan Arena, but with nine goals in his last five appearances for club and country he remains the European champion's biggest threat on the pitch.
Portugal coach Fernando Santos names an experienced and attacking side that includes Ronaldo's Madrid teammate Pepe, Jose Fonte, Joao Moutinho, Nani, Ricardo Quaresma and Barcelona's Andre Gomes.
Portugal also have plenty of talent in reserve with Manchester City new boy Bernardo Silva, AC Milan's latest signing Andre Silva and reported Liverpool target Gelson Martins all left out of the starting XI.
Juan Carlos Osorio's Mexico team is largely as expected and appears to be a 4-3-3 formation, with Andres Guardado captaining the team on his return from injury.
Osorio has selected Benfica's Raul Jimenez on the right wing instead of Hirving Lozano, while Giovani dos Santos, and Rafa Marquez are all also on the bench.
During his prematch news conference Santos attempted to bring attention back to the team and away from Ronaldo.
"This is the final word on Cristiano," Santos said. "I'm sure everyone wants to ask the same question, but we are representing Portugal and are playing tomorrow against Mexico.
"You know that I've known Ronaldo for many years, I was his last coach in Portugal, when he was only 18. I'd put my hands in the fire -- and it's something I rarely do -- for the character and integrity of Mr. Cristiano as a man and an athlete."
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