Fernando Santos leaves Portugal having led 109 of its matches.
Portugal’s Fernando Santos has left his position as coach following his team’s crushing defeat against Morocco last week, the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) announced on Thursday.
The FPF confirmed that the decision was mutual, with the federation highlighting Santos’ accomplishments since he assumed his position in 2014. The federation noted that both sides “understand that this is the right moment to start a new cycle”.
“In addition to the titles won, Fernando Santos became the coach with the most games and most victories,” the FPF said.
Morocco’s 1-0 win over Portugal was a moment for the history books as it became the first ever Arab and African country to reach a World Cup semi-finals.
Santos had faced criticism for leaving football star Critstiano Ronaldo on the bench during the beginning of the match, following a similar move in Portugal’s 6-1 thrashing of Switzerland.
In a video, Santos said that being a leader comes with difficult decisions and his position as Portugal’s coach was a “dream come true”.
“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,” Santos said.
The former coach led 109 of Portugal’s matches and witnessed his team clinch the European Championship in 2016 in France. The victory followed UEFA’s inaugural Nations League in 2018-2019.
While it remains unclear who will coach Portugal’s team next, several outlets from Lisbon circulated the names of the national under-21 coach Rui Jorge, AS Roma manager Jose Mourinho, and Lille boss Paulo Fonseca, per a Reuters report.
“The FPF thanks Fernando Santos and his technical team for the services provided over eight unique years and believes that this thanks is also made on behalf of the Portuguese people,” the FPF said.
Following his loss, Ronaldo took to Instagram to tell his fans that his dream of winning a World Cup “ended” while describing his 19-year quest for the title was “beautiful as long as it lasted”.
“There’s no point in reacting rashly,” the five-time Ballon d’Or winner added.
“I just want everybody to know that a lot has been said, a lot has been written, a lot has been speculated about, but my dedication to Portugal has never wavered for an instant.”
Ronaldo has not specifically commented on his future, but the 37-year-old has been widely expected to retire from international level football after Qatar, the fifth World Cup in which he had competed.
Portugal was trying to make it to the World Cup semi-finals for the third time, having finished third in 1966 and fourth in 2006. The team hasn’t progressed past the round of 16 since that tournament in Germany 16 years ago.