Portugal coach Santos leaves job following World Cup exit

Portugal have parted ways with coach Fernando Santos following the team’s 2022 World Cup quarterfinal exit to Morocco, the Portuguese federation (FPF) announced Thursday.

Santos, 68, took charge in 2014 and guided Portugal to their first-ever senior international title when beating France in the final of Euro 2016. The former Greece national team boss also led the Seleccao to the 2019 UEFA Nations League title.

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However, his tenure ended in disappointment in Qatar with a surprise 1-0 loss to Morocco. He had a contract that ran through Euro 2024.

“The Portuguese Football Federation and Fernando Santos agreed to end the highly successful journey that began in September 2014,” read a statement from the FPF.

“After one of the best participations ever by the National Team in the final stages of the World Cup, in Qatar, FPF and Fernando Santos understand that this is the right time to start a new cycle.

“The FPF Board will now begin the process of choosing the next national coach.”

In an emotional video message, Santos said that being Portugal’s coach was a “dream come true” and a “life goal” he fulfilled.

“When you lead groups, you have to make some difficult decisions,” he added. “It’s normal that not everyone was happy with the choices I made but the decisions I took were always thinking about what would be best for our team.”

Controversy also surrounded the Portugal team in Qatar, with Santos deciding to drop star man Cristiano Ronaldo for the team’s round of 16 game against Switzerland.

Santos’ decision, which came following Ronaldo showing visible frustration at being substituted in the previous game against South Korea, was vindicated when replacement Goncalo Ramos scored a hat trick in a 6-1 win.

Santos again started with Ronaldo on the bench against Morocco before bringing him on early in the second half as Portugal unexpectedly crashed out. Afterward Santos insisted he had no regrets about his decision.

“I don’t think so, no regrets,” Santos said. “I think this was a team which played very well against Switzerland. Cristiano Ronaldo is a great player, he came in when we thought it was necessary, so no regrets.

“If we take two persons that were the most upset it is Cristiano Ronaldo and myself. Of course we are upset, but that is part of the job of the coach and the player.”

Speaking about his own future at the time, Santos said: “I reiterate what I said before the competition, I have a discussion with the president and when we go back to Portugal we will deal with the issue of my contract.”

Various Portuguese media outlets have reported that names such as AS Roma manager Jose Mourinho, the national under-21 coach Rui Jorge and Lille boss Paulo Fonseca were being considered as possible replacements.

Mourinho arrived earlier on Thursday in Portugal’s southern region, where AS Roma will play three friendlies, but remained silent when questioned by reporters about Santos’ succession.

Information from Reuters was used in this report.