Roberto Martinez fires back at Cristiano Ronaldo question as Portugal boss gets defensive

Roberto Martinez hit back at concerns around Cristiano Ronaldo’s age (Image: Getty)

Roberto Martinez has hit back at suggestions Cristiano Ronaldo is too old to play a full Euros campaign. The 39-year-old is expected to start against Turkey today after featuring in every minute of Portugal’s win over Czechia. And the games will continue to come thick and fast if Ronaldo guides his nation to the knockout stages of Euro 2024.

It was put to Martinez that Ronaldo may struggle to cope with the step up in intensity from the Saudi Pro League, where he plays his club football with Al-Nassr, to this summer’s tournament.

“The amount of minutes Cristiano played last season tells you all you need to know,” he responded. “There is not another player in world football that has been to six Euros’.

“What’s important is to understand what a player brings to the team. Cristiano brings experience, know-how, goal-scoring opportunities, movement in the box, the opportunity to open space.

“If you want to analyse his stats over the past 12 months… Cristiano is in the Portuguese national team because he deserves to be. He scored 51 goals in 50 games. And all the physical stats just back up that he can play every four days.”

Cristiano Ronaldo played every minute of Portugal’s win over Czechia (Image: Getty)

Having appeared in every edition of the tournament since 2004, Ronaldo is by far and away the all-time leading scorer at the Euros with 14 goals.

But he was unable to notch in Portugal’s first game against Czechia. Lukas Provod’s opener forced Martinez’s men to do it the hard way on Tuesday, as Francisco Conceicao’s stoppage-time strike sealed a 2-1 win.

Portugal’s upcoming opponents, Turkey, are also fresh from a victory after putting three past Georgia earlier this week. Real Madrid teenager Arda Guler’s stunning strike in that game is already a candidate for goal of the tournament.

Turkey will have thousands more fans cheering them on in Dortmund than their opponents will, but Portugal forward Rafael Leao refuses to be intimidated. In fact, the AC Milan forward expects to get more joy against Turkey than he did against the well-drilled Czechs.

“It is a very important match against a very good team,” he said. “They have great quality. We can’t allow them a lot of space. They’re very skilled individually. We’ve been studying what the gaffer wants us to do. We know what we want to do and it’s going to be an entirely different game.

“There will be more space for us; for Joao Felix, for Cristiano, for Goncalo Ramos. I think we may show how strong our attacking players are – this is what the gaffer has been telling us. This game will be a bit more our style.”