Bruno Fernandes suggested Cristiano Ronaldo had been angry with Fernando Santos' decision to bench the Portugal captain, while he believes the veteran forward also would have thrived in the 6-1 win over Switzerland.
Ronaldo came out of the Portugal XI following a moment of controversy in the side's previous match against South Korea, when he appeared to insult Santos after being substituted.
Santos "really didn't like it at all" but insisted the matter had been "resolved" before naming Ronaldo among the substitutes against Switzerland in the last 16 of the World Cup.
Goncalo Ramos, drafted in to replace Ronaldo, scored a hat-trick in a stunning display at Lusail Stadium, while the Portugal skipper failed to net as a second-half substitute – though he did see an effort rightly ruled out for offside,
Asked of Ronaldo's reaction following Santos' decision, Fernandes said: "It was like everyone else. Do you think anyone likes to be on the bench?
"Jose Sa – he didn't play one minute, he knows that he's the third goalkeeper, but he's not happy to be on the bench.
"Do you think Cristiano would be happy? If the manager in the next game put me on the bench, I would be angry."
2008 - Cristiano Ronaldo is not starting a game for Portugal at a major tournament for the first time since 2008 (also against Switzerland), ending a 31-game streak. Benched. pic.twitter.com/LW7MekodRa— OptaJoao (@OptaJoao) December 6, 2022
But Fernandes bristled at the idea Portugal had won specifically because Ronaldo had come out of the team.
"We won the first two games with Cristiano in the first XI," the midfielder said. "If Cristiano had played, he could have scored three goals and nobody would be talking about Cristiano on the bench.
"Cristiano is doing his job, he's doing his part, and he's happy with the result, because the goal for everyone is to go as far as possible.
"I don't think people should be talking about the situation with Cristiano and why he's playing, why he's not playing.
"When Cristiano plays and the team wins, nobody talks about that. When Cristiano plays and the team loses, everyone talks about that."
Even as Portugal scored goal after goal in the second half, the crowd in Lusail chanted Ronaldo's name and jeered as they waited for his introduction.
Fernandes added: "Cristiano is the most famous player in the world, of all time. No-one is more famous than Cristiano in sports. Not in football, in sports.
"It's normal that people come to see Cristiano, cheering him and everything. I don't see any surprise in that. I don't know why anyone is surprised by that.
"Cristiano is Cristiano. It's normal that people are cheering him, even if he's on the bench and not playing. It's a simple thing."