Euro 2012: Ronaldo talk dominates Portugal press conference
Even when he is nowhere to be seen, the pervading presence of Cristiano Ronaldo and the mystery over his failure to sparkle at international tournaments are dominating the Portuguese camp at Euro 2012.
Ronaldo again took centre stage as Portugal gave a news conference on Friday, although the player wheeled out to face the media was unassuming reserve striker Silvestre Varela.
Having scored a last-gasp winner in the 3-2 win over Denmark on Wednesday, Varela might have made interesting subject matter in his own right especially as he has struggled to hold down a first-team place at Porto this season.
But he was repeatedly asked about why Ronaldo was unable to find his best form and why he was not the same player who blasted 46 La Liga goals for Real Madrid last season.
Varela, however, was not in the mood to give a detailed analysis on his captain.
"One thing has nothing do with the other," he said curtly, replying to the request for a comparison between Ronaldo's club and international form.
"Football is a team game. When then team is playing well, then all the players are also doing well and Ronaldo has nothing to prove to anyone."
"Ronaldo has been doing well for us," he insisted. "He's an excellent player and captain. We are all ready to make sacrifices for Portugal."
Ronaldo is playing at his fifth major international tournament and his scoring ratio, five goals in 21 appearances, is far below his club form.
His best effort was at Euro 2004 where, still only 19, he scored twice to help Portugal reach the final. He managed one goal at each of the 2006 World Cup, Euro 2008 and the last World Cup in South Africa and has yet to hit the target in Poland and Ukraine.
He infamously spat at a television camera after Portugal lost 1-0 to Spain in the round of 16 at the last World Cup.
Ronaldo's facial gestures in the present tournament have suggested enormous frustration with both himself and team mates, particularly striker Helder Postiga.
He look more relieved than happy after the win over Denmark where he missed two excellent chances to put Portugal 3-1 ahead, giving Denmark the chance to make it 2-2 before Varela's goal spared his blushes.
During that game, Danish fans tweaked his nerves by chanting the name of his great rival Lionel Messi and, instead of brushing aside the comments afterwards, Ronaldo rose to the bait and fired an aside at the Argentine.
"Do you know where Messi was this time last year?," he said. "He was being knocked out of the Copa America on home soil with Argentina. I think that's worse."
Ronaldo coach Paulo Bento has taken the same line as Varela, saying it is not important who scores the goals as long as somebody does.
"The pressure comes from the media, there is none from us, he is here to help us and try and solve problems," he said after the Denmark game.
"There is not a single player among the 23 in the squad who feel any sense of frustration."