Portugal has entered a new era. But the foundation has remained the same, with captain Cristiano Ronaldo back in a key role and scoring goals. Coach Roberto Martínez paid him a big compliment.
Fernando Santos has been the coach of the Portuguese national team since 2014. In 2016, he led the country from the Iberian Peninsula to their first ever trophy when they won the EURO, even in the following years he had a great relationship with captain Cristiano Ronaldo and the striker gave him a lot of respect.
However, a problem arose at the last World Cup in Qatar when Santos decided to bench Ronaldo in the play-off matches.
It worked out well in the eighth-final against Switzerland, with his substitute Goncalo Ramos scoring a hat-trick, but it didn’t work so well in the quarter-final against Morocco and Portugal were eliminated after losing 0-1.
Santos was sacked and replaced by Roberto Martínez, who ended up with the Belgium national team after the World Cup. Logically, one of the first questions for the Spanish coach was what Ronaldo’s role in the national team would be and whether he would even nominate him again after his departure to Arabia.
Martínez made it clear in his very first nomination that he would definitely count on the 38-year-old top scorer in football history.
He put Ronaldo in the starting line-up in the first two qualifying matches against Liechtenstein and Luxembourg and the captain rewarded him with four goals, two in each game.
“Cristiano has unparalleled experience at international level. He is a leader in the dressing room and is ready to lead and captain this national team,” Martínez made it clear after the match that he is counting on Ronaldo in the future.
“He is a unique player:: he has the most international matches in the world, he brings incredible experience and is very important to the dressing room. Young players are eager to prove their quality and players like Cristiano help them with their experience,” Martínez added.
Source: MARCA, Portuguese national football team
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