Ronaldo returned and proved to still be a force

At the 2022 World Cup and Portugal had just lost to Morocco in the quarterfinals, Cristiano Ronaldo was in tears as he walked off the field, and it seemed to be the sad end of his great career. At the age of nearly 38 years old at that time, it was undeniable that Ronaldo was past his prime.

Cristiano Ronaldo is still a key member of the Portuguese team heading to Euro 2024.

Cristiano Ronaldo is still a key member of the Portuguese team heading to Euro 2024.

But that was not the last time the football world witnessed Ronaldo perform at a major tournament. We really shouldn’t underestimate him. Eighteen months later, Ronaldo still scores hat-tricks, still breaks records, still has the will to win and confidence… things that have long set him apart from most people. And Ronaldo remains a key member of Portugal’s squad heading into the European Championship in Germany, as one of the tournament’s favourites.

Coach Roberto Martinez, who was appointed to lead Portugal a few weeks after the World Cup, has kept Ronaldo, now 39 years old, as his captain. “For us, he was always a leader,” Martinez said. “But, more than anything, perhaps the biggest surprise is that he approaches each day as a new way to be the best, a new way to continue to impress.”

Euro 2024 is an opportunity for Ronaldo to remind football fans that he is still a force in the sport. Since the beginning of 2023, he has been playing in Saudi Arabia, where the Saudi Pro League is in the global spotlight simply for throwing a lot of money at some famous superstars. Ronaldo, said to earn $200 million a year, is still scoring a lot – he was the top scorer in the Saudi Pro League last season with 35 goals, a new record – even as critics commentators were quick to point out the tournament’s low standard of play.
Cristiano Ronaldo1.jpgCoach Roberto Martinez was very confident in keeping Ronaldo as his captain.
Coach Martinez, who couldn’t be more impressed with what Ronaldo did in Saudi, said: “We don’t make choices based on where the players play. He has become the central figure of a new project and it is important for us, as national team coaches, that he can continue to score goals. Subjectively, you could say his stats are better than anything. He is the top scorer of 2023 in world football, and he has a completely new start in a league that in the next few years will be very much talked about.”

It was the change on the coaching bench, when Martinez replaced Fernando Santos, that somewhat changed the fortunes of Ronaldo – who thought his time with the national team was over after having to sit on the bench in qualifying matches. live at the World Cup. Ronaldo feels he still has much to contribute, especially adding to the world record for the number of goals scored in men’s international tournaments, which is currently 128.

In the Euro 2024 qualifiers, Ronaldo started 9 out of 10 matches and scored 10 goals – only behind Romelu Lukaku of Belgium (14 goals). He is the captain whenever he starts. In short, Martinez has complete confidence in Ronaldo, a player he describes as “an iconic figure of the sport.” Now Ronaldo is aiming for his sixth European Championship, and 11th major tournament – extending his own record. “He constantly makes a difference,” coach Martinez said. “And I think, for us, Ronaldo is a great role model for young players.”
Cristiano Ronaldo11.jpgCoach Martinez affirmed that Ronaldo is a great role model for young players.
Portugal has been placed in a comfortable group at Euro 2024, including Türkiye, Czech Republic and “rookie” Georgia. But, what if Portugal plays France or the Netherlands in the quarter-finals, which could happen in the knockout round. Will Ronaldo fall into the situation of having to sit on the bench like in Qatar?

One big difference compared to the World Cup is that his substitute, Goncalo Ramos, is currently not a regular starter at Paris Saint-Germain after he moved from Benfica. More importantly, coach Martinez seems willing to give up some of Ronaldo’s limitations – such as his inability to press as well as others – because the only thing he cares about is that he is still dangerous. dangerous in front of goal.

Ronaldo has a long list of midfielders and wingers ready to create opportunities for him – Bruno Fernandes, Rafael Leao, Diogo Jota, Bernardo Silva, Joao Felix. With holding midfielder Joao Palhinha shielding the defense so well, helping Portugal concede just two goals in the entire qualifying campaign, there is a lot to be optimistic about Portugal’s chances. at this tournament in Germany.

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