Portugal manager Roberto Martinez’s true feelings about Cristiano Ronaldo come to light

Cristiano Ronaldo is set to star at his sixth Euros (Image: Getty)

Roberto Martinez has come out swinging in defence of Cristiano Ronaldo, insisting the legendary forward has rightfully earned his place at Euro 2024 through sheer performance. With the clock ticking down on his illustrious career, 39-year-old Ronaldo is eyeing what could be his final bow on the international stage at Euro 2024 in Germany.

However, questions have been raised about whether the superstar, who may be past his prime, should have been included in Portugal’s squad for this summer’s showdown. Earlier in the year, Ronaldo found an ally in former Manchester United teammate Louis Saha, who hit back at Frank Leboeuf’s claims that Portugal’s chances at the Euros would be better without their iconic number seven.

Back in March, Leboeuf didn’t mince words, saying: “For me, Portugal are actually one of the contenders for this summer’s European Championships. I actually think they can win the Euros, but only if Cristiano Ronaldo doesn’t play. You cannot take away anything that Ronaldo has done for football just because he has gone to retire in the Saudi League. I want to thank him for taking the sport to another level, but there is an end for everyone.”

Saha, however, took umbrage with the former Chelsea defender’s remarks, reports the Mirror. He countered: “I heard Frank Leboeuf say that Portugal can’t win with Cristiano Ronaldo. I think it’s disrespectful. Yes you can have your say and say and yes it’s possible that Portugal are not going to win with or without him, but saying he can’t win the competition at all is very harsh.”

Portugal manager Martinez has now come out swinging in defence of his decision to include Ronaldo in his squad, hitting back at critics who suggest the Al-Nassr star is coasting on reputation alone. Addressing the media, Martinez declared: “Cristiano is in the national team on merit. Nobody gets into the national team by just having a name.

“Cristiano scored 50 goals in 51 games consistent with his club in his league and he scored [10] goals in our qualification rounds. He’s a goalscorer and, for us, he’s someone who can make that final move.

Martinez defended his selection of Ronaldo (Image: Getty)

“He can stretch defences and open spaces. Over the years, he has changed his way of playing slightly, but I can only say that Cristiano is in the national team on merit and the numbers are there to back that up.”

Ronaldo, a stalwart of Portugal’s European Championship campaigns, first burst onto the scene during the 2004 tournament hosted by his nation under Luiz Felipe Scolari, where they were stunned in the final by Greece. Since then, he has featured in the championships of 2008, 2012, 2020, and notably in 2016 when Portugal clinched the title with a 1-0 win against France.

Buy England’s Euro 2024 kit

£84.99 View Deal

The Three Lions are among the favourites to win this summer’s Euro 2024 tournament and you can get your hands on the brand new Nike home and away kits before the first whistle.

Despite nearing the end of his career, Ronaldo continues to defy his age, scoring 44 goals and providing 13 assists in 44 matches across all competitions for Saudi Arabia’s Al-Nassr this season. Internationally, he remains Portugal’s most capped player, boasting 130 goals in 207 appearances, surpassing legends such as Luis Figo, Nani and Rui Costa.

Portugal will face off against the Czech Republic in their opening match of Euro 2024 at 8pm on Tuesday (June 18), with fans eagerly watching CR7’s performance. They’re also set to play against Turkey on Saturday, and Georgia in their final group game on Wednesday, June 26.

Source: https://www.express.co.uk/sport/football/1912538/Portugal-Roberto-Martinez-Cristiano-Ronaldo-Euro-2024