Manchester United's assistant manager Carlos Queiroz has launched an extraordinary attack on the Spanish nation and Real Madrid in particular over what he believes are attempts to "naturalise" Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Portuguese coach drew a comparison between the player and Christopher Columbus.
Real Madrid have made no secret of their desire to recruit Ronaldo, prompting United to consider reporting them to the sport's world governing body, Fifa. But Queiroz feels that Madrid's outspoken courting of his Portuguese compatriot is about more than their wish to snap up the gifted winger, claiming it is part of the long history and rivalry between Portugal and Spain.
"Cristiano Ronaldo will never be Spanish! As they will never take Olivenca again," he told the Portuguese newspaper Jornal de Noticias, referring to the small town on the disputed border between the two countries. He also delved further into the historic rivalry, alluding to explorer Christopher Columbus – who both countries claim as their own – and the Spanish Philippine Dynasty, which ruled Portugal from 1580 until the bloodless revolution of 1640.
"They already did the same with Christopher Columbus, and it now seems they want to naturalise Cristiano Ronaldo," the United No 2 added. "Have they already forgotten what we did to them in the past? We will never lose our patience."
With Portugal preparing for Euro 2008, Queiroz knows the furore could not have come at a worse time. "It's being done in a manner to distract the Portugal team, at the height of their preparations for the European Championships," he said. "But I am convinced that despite pressure from the Spanish press he will not change his nationality."
Queiroz and Ferguson, meanwhile, have been cleared of charges of improper conduct. The two were charged in April following comments made after United's 1-0 defeat by Portsmouth in the FA Cup sixth round in March.
Ferguson had said that referee Martin Atkinson had been "on Portsmouth's side" while Queiroz accused him of being "a robber".
Town that divides two nations
As Britain and Argentina have the Falklands – sorry, Las Malvinas – so Portugal and Spain have the border town Olivenca – sorry, Olivenza. Portugal ceded it to Spain under the Treaty of Badajoz in 1801 but changed their minds in 1808 during the Peninsular War, hence the ongoing dispute. Under an 1810 treaty Britain agreed to help them win it back.Reuse content