Euro 2024 provides welcome respite for angry fans as Cristiano Ronaldo sums up feelings

For all the financial implications of modern-day international tournaments, the Euros will give the game’s followers welcome respite from the talk of TV deals, economic shenanigans and politics

Across Germany, fans are growing disillusioned with elite European club football.


Increasingly, there are protests against outlandishly wealthy owners and state-connected consortiums building up club empires. But for all the financial implications of modern-day international tournaments, the Euros will give the game’s followers welcome respite from the talk of TV deals, economic shenanigans and politics.

There remains a purity and nobility about representing your country on the big stage. Take Cristiano Ronaldo, for example. No-one embodies the crass commercialism of 21st football more than Ronaldo, currently being used as the poster boy for the Saudi Arabian sports washing project.

It turns the stomach. But it is clear that nothing gives Ronaldo more satisfaction than wearing the colours of his national team.

When he scored twice in the win over the Republic of Ireland on Tuesday night, it meant he now has 130 goals in 207 appearances for Portugal. And even at the age of 39, you would not back against him strutting his stuff in Germany and helping a very talented Portuguese squad to success.

Ronaldo’s farewell to the Euros – this will be his sixth and last one – is not going to be the only one. We will probably be seeing the last of a handful of greats on the Euro stage.

And one of those will be Toni Kroos, who bowed out of club football by winning his fifth Champions League with Real Madrid. Now, he will be looking to bring the curtain down on his international career by winning the Euros on home soil.

“That ending would be a bit too cheesy, with the Champions League and the European Championship … but I would take it,” says the 34-year-old, who initially stepped away from national team duty after Germany’s last-16 exit at Euro 2020.

Cristiano Ronaldo is preparing for Euro 2024 with Portugal
Cristiano Ronaldo is preparing for Euro 2024 with Portugal 

On home soil, there is no doubt Germany will be a force to be reckoned with but you could throw a blanket over four nations if you fancy a bet on the outright winner. For me, those four would be England, Germany, Portugal and Spain.

 

But despite what the bookmakers would suggest – Southgate’s men are favourites to claim the Henri Delaunay Trophy – France are the stand-out squad at Euro 2024. And having finalised his dream move to Real Madrid, there is one man primed to set the Championships alight … Kylian Mbappe.

Captaining his country for the first time at a tournament, the 25-year-old has scored 47 goals in 79 games for the French and hit 44 in 48 during his farewell season at Paris Saint-Germain.

Mbappe will take some stopping at these Euros. But the same can be said of Harry Kane, who has exuded an air of quiet confidence around England’s training camp in the days leading up to the big kick-off.

England captain Harry Kane will lead the Three Lions' bid for glory
England captain Harry Kane will lead the Three Lions’ bid for glory

Mbappe’s new team-mate, Jude Bellingham, also looks refreshed and raring to go after his stunning exploits with Real Madrid last season. Of course, this tournament WILL be a commercial monstrosity and, unfortunately, it will also be a reminder of the febrile times, needing a huge security operation to counter the threats posed by terrorism and hooliganism.

But there will be brilliance, there will be drama, there will be pride, and there will be passion. Because nothing can match representing your people on the grandest stage… as Cristiano Ronaldo would tell you.

 

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