WHETHER even the presence of Ronaldo could have pushed the attendance at Hampden this evening past the 20,000 mark is open to debate, but whether it will be the SFA’s coffers that will miss him more than his own team is a fair discussion point too.

Even in his absence, the shadow cast by one of the world’s best players is a considerable one. And the circumstances around his leave from international duty on this occasion in particular have set a dark pall to the backdrop of Portugal’s fixture against Poland on Thursday and this evening’s game against Scotland.

The rape allegations made against one of football’s true icons have shaken not only the national team to the core, but the entire country, whose modern-day confidence and sense of itself on the world stage is inextricably linked with the incredible accomplishments of their favourite son.

For the football team, the conductor that normally draws all attention away from them may be missing in body, but his presence is undeniably hovering in the air, now placing them at the centre of the storm.

Tom Kundert, founder of website portugoal.net and a journalist and author who specialises in Portuguese football, has been struck by the reaction to the allegations being made against Ronaldo in his adopted homeland.

“The media circus around Ronaldo is not normally a problem for Portugal’s players, because they are just so used to it,” Kundert said. “Some of the players have said that the focus on Ronaldo is actually quite helpful because it takes the pressure off of them. In the media, especially the foreign media, every single question at press conferences is about Ronaldo. There’s not too much focus on other good players who may not be performing too well, they don’t really have to face up to that or other awkward questions.

“In this particular case of course, and I think it is probably the reason he isn’t playing despite them not specifically saying so, is because of the allegations against him. If he was here, then the world’s media would be descending on the Portuguese camp. In this case, from the media circus point of view, then it is definitely beneficial that he isn’t here this time.

“The reaction has been quite varied. Overall, most people have come out in support of Ronaldo, because he is a national hero. Anywhere in the world, what do people associate with Portugal? It’s Cristiano Ronaldo.

“Up until this scandal, despite there being lots of people who don’t like certain aspects of his character, he has generally been a very positive role model and it has been a positive reflection on Portugal that he has achieved what he has given where he came from.

“So, it has been a bit difficult for people to try to get their head around, and a lot of people are flatly dismissing it, or labelling his accuser as a gold-digger. A lot of people just don’t want to believe it, and they think that it is people trying to take advantage of Ronaldo.

“It is interesting that there is now a lot of discussion about the reaction to the news and what it tells people about the Portuguese mentality. There’s probably been more debate about that than the actual facts of the case.

“In the first few days after the scandal broke, it was basically blanked in the news. You have seen that to a certain extent across the wider footballing world, but perhaps in Portugal especially it has not been reported more because of who he is."

From a purely footballing perspective, any relief that under-fire Scotland boss Alex McLeish may be feeling at not having to face up to Ronaldo may be misguided.

There is a growing theory that the Portugal side are in fact better as a whole when Ronaldo isn’t playing, a notion that seems ludicrous given his contribution to his side as recently as the World Cup this summer and his unquestionable ability.

Coach Fernando Santos was keen to dismiss such a theory in the aftermath of their 3-2 victory over the Poles on Thursday, stating that "no team can be better without the best in the world”. Even so, the wins over Italy and Poland and the draw with Croatia garnered without the five-time Ballon D’or winner since Russia would seem to lend the theory at least some credence.

The 4-3-3 Portugal will adopt this evening without Ronaldo seems to provide a better balance to the side than the 4-4-2 they deploy to get the best from his explosive abilities off the left.

“Recent evidence has shown that there may be something in that, because Ronaldo was rested for the first two games after the World Cup, and Portugal actually played really well in those games,” said Kundert. “They got a win against Italy and a draw against Croatia, and they were unlucky not to win that one too.

“One thing that Ronaldo not being there quite evidently does, is make the rest of the players less inhibited. They feel freer to do their own thing. When Ronaldo is there, they tend to look for him all the time. When he’s not there, they take more responsibility and on the evidence of those two games, and a few others pre-World Cup also when he sat out, they look a little bit more cohesive without Ronaldo.

“This Portugal side now is full of players who should be and are increasingly more confident in their own right. They are either playing for big clubs like Bernardo Silva, or they have key roles in medium-sized clubs like Andre Silva now and William Carvalho. These are good performers who are confident in their own ability.

“It is a fair comment that when he is not there, even if it is sub-conscious, they play a bit more of their natural game and how they would play for their club sides. They are happier to take on more responsibility.”