What does Cristiano Ronaldo have in common with former Socceroos defender Craig Moore and former New Zealand international Simon Elliott?
Not much at the moment. But when the superstar takes the field for Portugal against Ghana (AEDT) on Friday morning, the three will share a unique World Cup performance.
He becomes the first player since Moore and Elliott in 2010 to take part in a World Cup match without a club.
Ronaldo is the only player of the 831 players in Qatar without a club.
The striker said goodbye to Premier League club Manchester United on Tuesday in mutual consultation and is looking for a new club.
Ronaldo, 37, had spoken out in a controversial interview last week, where he lashed out at coach Erik ten Hag and the club itself, provoking his eventual departure.
How much that search for a new club affects his performance on the field will be seen in a few hours.
But Portuguese coach Fernando Santos claimed that Ronaldo’s acrimonious split with Manchester United had not been discussed by the players as far as he knows.
“In our time together on the pitch, when we are together, playing and training, the conversation has not come up at any point, not even from him (Ronaldo),” he told a press conference.
“If they only talk about it in their room, I can’t tell. The players are absolutely focused, with a great mind, convinced of what they have to do, what their objectives are and realistic about the challenges they face.
The superstar has also been suspended for two English Premier League games and fined £50,000 for smashing a mobile phone from a teenage fan’s hand.
Ronaldo was involved in a flare-up with a 14-year-old boy after the Red Devils’ 1-0 defeat to Everton in the Premier League at Goodison Park on April 9.
Of course that suspension is irrelevant if Ronaldo doesn’t find another team in England, but it’s just another distraction he needs heading into his final World Cup.
His teammates say the off-field dramas with Ronaldo have no bearing on the team in Qatar.
Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes – who played with Ronaldo at Manchester United – said it was a “dream” to play with him at United, but “nothing lasts forever”.
“It’s his career and we have to respect decisions like that, every decision has to be respected whether you agree or not,” he told Ghana before the game.
“We as players, but also as parents, brothers, know that it may be difficult to make some decisions, but these decisions must be for the good of ourselves and our families.”
Ghanaian coach Otto Addo thinks Portugal will not be affected by Ronaldo’s separation from Manchester United.
“I don’t care, it’s not our problem and I don’t think it’s a big problem,” Addo told a press conference on Wednesday.
“Everyone wants to win and we are at World Cup level, I don’t think this can upset anyone.”
Black Stars captain Andre Ayew agreed with his coach, saying Euro 2016 winners Portugal would be favorites for the match at Stadium 974 in Doha.
“As my boss said, it’s not really our problem what happens in the Portuguese team. They are great professionals, they play for top teams and they will be ready for the World Cup,” said Ayew, who plays for Qatari club Al- Sadd.
“Portugal are the favorites on paper, we have to show on the pitch that on paper is not what will happen on the pitch.”