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CRISTIANO RONALDO ran out to a huge roar from the Portuguese fans ahead of his first game as a free agent.

The mega star, 37, left Manchester United earlier this week by mutual consent after his bombshell Talk TV interview with Piers Morgan where he criticised the running of the club.

3Cristiano Ronaldo warms up ahead of his side's clash with GhanaCredit: Getty 3Ronaldo, 37, claps the travelling Portuguese faithfulCredit: Reuters

Shockwaves were felt around the football world as a result - and Ronaldo's situation has dominated Portugal's build-up to the World Cup.

Now it is back to the football as captain Ronaldo leads his side against Ghana in their opening game in Qatar.

Ronnie looked pumped up as he came out to warm up with his team-mates to a massive roar.

There was another big cheer from his adoring fans when he applauded them, as well as when both his name and famous "Siuuu" celebration were announced on the loud speaker.

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It is amazing to think that, after 117 goals in 191 caps for his country, and a shedload more in his outrageously prolific club career, he may still have something to prove.

But this is one of the ultimate winners in the game who will be desperate to show he still has what it takes on the biggest stage.

After his Man United exit was confirmed, Ronaldo skipped the usual pre-match media duties normally required of a team captain yesterday.

His former Red Devils team-mate Bruno Fernandes stepped in for him - addressing the potentially awkward situation.

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Fernandes, 28, said: "It was good for me while it lasted. Now Cristiano has taken a different decision for his career and his family and we have to respect that.

"I haven't discussed the topic with Cris. We’re all focused on the national team and the World Cup.

"I don’t feel uncomfortable. I don’t have to pick a side. It was a dream come true to play with Cristiano [at United] but nothing lasts forever.

"We know what the World Cup means to Cristiano and his focus has always been there. He didn't tell me about his decision.

"It's a personal decision and it concerns him and his family. We haven't talked about it.

"Everyone here is focused on the goal, the national team and the World Cup."

Both were named in Fernando Santos' starting line-up for their Group H opener against Ghana.

3Ronaldo warms up with Bernardo SilvaCredit: Getty Topics
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  • Manchester United
  • Portugal
  • Cristiano Ronaldo
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Harry Kane inspired by former idols David Beckham and Wayne Rooney as he captains England’s World Cup charge

HARRY KANE takes inspiration from former idols David ­Beckham and Wayne Rooney as he chases World Cup glory.

Kane spoke to one-time England captain Beckham when Goldenballs visited the squad’s training base during the group stage.

3Marry Kane's biggest idol is David Beckham, who he met in 2005 when the current Three Lions' skipper was aged 11Credit: Rex Features 3Wayne Rooney's reaction to becoming England's record scorer has stayed in the mind of Kane and now the striker needs one more to equal that mark of 53Credit: Getty

And after moving to within one goal of Rooney’s all-time Three Lions record, the Spurs striker revealed how another predecessor as skipper is driving him on to greatness.

Kane, who famously met Beckham as a kid, said: “Becks went to my secondary school, Chingford Foundation. We both played for Ridgeway Rovers, our Sunday league team.

“He was my biggest idol when I was growing up. He was here the other day. We had a good chat.

“He was one of the best captains we ever had.

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“I didn’t just ask questions about games or how he felt, it was more just getting to know his experiences, how he feels about our team, what he sees in our team.

“We had a chat about loads of things. He’s really excited for the national side. He loves watching us play.

“It’s great to have support from ex-players. They know how much it means to represent your country. They’re all part of the team.”

Beckham visited the England squad after a training session at the invitation of Three Lions boss, and former international team-mate, Gareth Southgate.

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Former Manchester United and Real Madrid superstar Beckham won 115 caps.

And Goldenballs’ free-kick winner in the last-16 victory over Ecuador at the 2006 finals means he is still the only Englishman to have scored in three separate World Cups.

Becks also netted in 1998, against Colombia, and 2002, the winner against Argentina, as well as appearing at the 2000 and 2004 Euros.

But he suffered “the worst moment of my career” when he was sent off against Argentina for a petulant kick at Diego Simeone in 1998 and England crashed out on penalties.

Kane, 29, never got to play alongside Beckham, but was on the pitch when Rooney broke Sir Bobby Charlton’s goal record with a penalty against Switzerland in 2015.

That was Rooney’s 50th international goal and the Manchester United legend finished with 53 strikes in all from 120 appearances.

Kane’s rocket shot in Sunday’s 3-0 win over Senegal puts him on 52 — and he has his sights set firmly on Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final with France.

Kane said: “The record was not something I was thinking about at the start.

3ENFIELD, ENGLAND – MAY 22: Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur meets David Beckham during the Tottenham Hotspur training session at Tottenham Hotspur Training Centre on May 22, 2019 in Enfield, England. (Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)Credit: Getty - Contributor

“I was playing when Wayne Rooney broke the record and saw how much it meant to him.

“A few months later he had a trophy presented to him (to commemorate the record) and said he wanted me to present it because he thought I’d go and break the record.

"Praise from him, someone I looked up to my whole life watching England and playing with him meant a lot.

“When he said that, I thought ‘maybe that’s something I can achieve.’”

Kane’s goal against Senegal took him ahead of Gary Lineker as England’s most prolific striker at major tournaments, with 11.

Kane told the Lions’ Den with M&S Food: “It’s hard when you are in it and you’re thinking about the next game, thinking about France and getting through.

“When I’ve finished playing I’m sure I will look back and be extremely proud and I’ll be extremely proud whenever I do break the record.

“If I was a teenager watching I’d be so excited and be in awe but it’s a different feeling when you’re in among it.

It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done, he keeps pushing you.

Kane on Henderson

“If it can be at this tournament, it would be nice, as it would probably mean the team are doing well as well — we’ll have to see.

“It was nice to get that one against Senegal and get one step closer.”
Kane is doing his best to match and surpass the standards set by the two former England captains.

But he also appreciates the role that Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson is playing as he and the team bid to become Qatar heroes.

Henderson — a Champions League and Premier League winner with Liverpool — set England on their way with the opening goal against Senegal and Kane said: “Hendo is one of the best leaders I’ve played with.

“He is very vocal, he pushes players to go to the max and that’s why he’s been great.

“He is outstanding with and without the ball and he is pushing everyone. The way we have been pressing, it’s good to hear him pushing you on.

“We have different types of leader — we maybe have four or five different types of personalities but people have big personalities and he’s one of them.

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“And it doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done, he keeps pushing you.

“It was great for him to score and a lot of the good stuff we’ve done is down to his role in the team.”

Topics
  • Football
  • Premier League
  • World Cup 2022
  • England
  • Manchester United
  • Tottenham Hotspur
  • David Beckham
  • Harry Kane
  • Wayne Rooney
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