Casemiro insists Cristiano Ronaldo’s bitter Man United exit is a ‘sad’ moment for the club

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Cristiano Ronaldo could come into contact with former Manchester United team-mate Casemiro this week following his Old Trafford departure.

Ronaldo and Casemiro also played together at Real Madrid, but the Brazil stalwart revealed he has not tried to contact his Portuguese associate since or during the dramatic fallout from his controversial Piers Morgan interview.

Casemiro said: ‘I haven’t exchanged any messages with him, but Cristiano is a really experienced guy and knows what’s good for his career.

‘Of course we’re sad, especially in Manchester, because you’re talking about one of the best players in history. Cristiano is a grown-up and knows what’s best for him. As friends we just wish him all the best in the world and football-wise hope everything goes well – except when he’s playing against us.’

World Cup favourites Brazil trained behind closed doors at the Grand Hamad Stadium on Saturday without the injured Neymar and Danilo. Brazil coach Tite is trying to put a brave face on his injury issues that include Antony, who has missed training for two days due to illness.

If the United striker fails to fully recover for Monday’s match against Switzerland it could lead to a starting chance for one of Arsenal’s in-form duo of Gabriel Jesus or Gabriel Martinelli against their north London team-mate Granit Xhaka, the Swiss skipper.

Brazil’s highly-decorated Dani Alves, now 39 and playing his club football with Pumas in Mexico, is a contender to replace Danilo at left-back. Yet perhaps for the first time in more than a dozen years since his debut, an injury to Neymar has not gone down in Brazil like the end of the world.

Richarlison was the hero against Serbia, scoring both in a 2-0 win, but many eyes will turn to Vinicius Junior in Neymar’s absence, curious to see if he steps forward and becomes the centre of attention.

He is the semi-official heir apparent. It was less than a week after Brazil’s defeat by Belgium in the quarter-finals in Kazan four years ago that Vinicius completed his move from Flamengo to Real Madrid on his 18th birthday.

Last season he scored 22 goals, culminating in the winner in the Champions League final against Liverpool. He rose to the challenge when Real Madrid failed to sign Kylian Mbappe in the summer of 2021. This season, however, has been fraught with a different sort of the test when rival players accused him of being disrespectful by performing a celebration dance after scoring against Real Mallorca.

A group of Atletico Madrid supporters were filmed chanting racist abuse about him and an agent appeared on a television show to racially abuse him and demand he be dropped. Vinicius was caught in a firestorm he didn’t start.

The controversy seemed to be distracting, and gave opponents fuel to wind him up. Against Rayo Vallecano recently the referee had to ask his manager to calm him down. There are rumours within the Real camp that the 22-year-old Brazilian winger has becoming too big for his boots.

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