Cristiano Ronaldo's 2026 World Cup fate has already emerged with Portugal now out of Euros

Cristiano Ronaldo cut a desolate figure after the penalty shootout defeat (Image: Anadolu via Getty Images)

Cristiano Ronaldo’s future in international football is hanging in the balance following Portugal’s departure from Euro 2024. Captain Ronaldo and his team-mates were sent packing from Germany on Friday night by France, who triumphed 5-3 in a nail-biting quarter-final penalty shootout after a goalless 120 minutes at Hamburg’s Volksparkstadion.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner previously stated that this would be his last European Championship at the ripe age of 39. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t be seen at the 2026 World Cup, set to take place in the United States, Mexico and Canada.

He’s hinted before that he plans to make the trip to North America, regardless of his advancing years. In a conversation with Arsenal legend Freddie Ljungberg last December, Portugal’s manager Roberto Martinez shared a discussion he had with Ronaldo when he first took charge.

Via the Manchester Evening News, Martinez said: “He was very close to reaching 200 caps. Something nobody has ever done before. I asked [Ronaldo] if reaching 200 caps was something that interested him or not? He replied, ‘250 interests me’.”

Since then, Ronaldo has surpassed the 200-cap milestone and currently stands at 212 appearances for his country. To reach his ambitious target of 250, he would need to continue playing regularly and secure a spot in the next World Cup squad.

According to reports in Saudi Arabia last year, Ronaldo is indeed plotting a grand finale for his illustrious career. They claimed the legendary forward has aspirations of playing until 2027, aligning with a potential Portugal swansong at the next World Cup.

Portugal were eliminated from Euro 2024 at the quarter-final stage (Image: Getty)

However, Martinez, in the wake of Portugal’s defeat, refused to be drawn into conversations about his or 41-year-old Pepe’s future. He was asked if they’d played their final matches for their country.

In response, Martinez told reporters in his post-match press conference: “No. Everything is too raw. We are still suffering the defeat. There’s no individual decisions at this point.”

Sir Alex Ferguson, Ronaldo’s mentor at Manchester United, has expressed doubts about his World Cup prospects. In an interview with Sport Bild, he said: “I can’t imagine that. Football will become even faster and more athletic in the coming years.

“In addition, the space for central strikers will become increasingly smaller. In contrast to defenders, it is more difficult for strikers to play at the highest level when they are older.”

Ronaldo failed to score in his five starts at the Euros, missing a penalty in their round of 16 win over Slovenia. He did score in the resulting shootout and converted his penalty against France, though.

But critics have questioned his role and the impact he has from open play, particularly when considering Portugal’s rich array of attacking alternatives available to Martinez. It appears Ronaldo would relish the chance to feature at the 2026 World Cup as things stand, although the decision could potentially be taken out of his hands before then.