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Roberto Martinez is due to announce his Portugal squad this week for their upcoming Euro 2024 qualifiers against Liechtenstein and Luxembourg. It will be the first Portugal squad that Martinez will have worked with since being appointed as the new head coach of the Portuguese national team in January.
While there is always excitement around a new manager’s squad announcement, this one is particularly interesting because there are huge question marks surrounding a certain number 7. Cristiano Ronaldo’s international future could hinge on this one squad announcement with the nation’s all-time leading appearance-maker and goalscorer unlikely to ever return if snubbed by Martinez this week.
After signing for Al-Nassr after the World Cup, the level of football that Ronaldo currently plays at significantly lower than the standards he will come up against at the higher end of international football. While he would be fine against this month’s opponents there a huge concerns that he longer would be able to compete against the best nations in Europe at Euro 2024.
A reduced role?
There is the possibility that Ronaldo is called up by Roberto Martinez but to play a reduced role in his squad. However, history indicates that the ex-Real Madrid star wouldn’t be happy with this.
Earlier this season Manchester United manager, Erik Ten Hag, decided that Ronaldo was no longer good enough to play week-in, week-out at the age of 37 and so to manage his workload, started him on the substitutes bench on a number of occasions.
Things came to a head when the five-time Ballon d’Or winner conducted an interview with British Journalist, Piers Morgan, about how he had been treated by Ten Hag. The damage was unrepairable and United terminated Ronaldo’s contract.
Just a few weeks later, ex-Portugal boss Fernando Santos tried to manage Ronaldo’s workload by managing his minutes throughout the World Cup group stages. However, after reacting angrily to being substituted in Portugal’s final group game, Ronaldo was dropped from the starting lineup for the round of 16 game against Switzerland. The man who replaced Ronaldo, Goncalo Ramos, netted a hat-trick.
Therefore, the notion that Ronaldo would accept a reduced role for his country is one that seems a non-starter. This leaves Martinez to decide whether to play a long qualifying campaign with a 38-year-old as his main centre forward to bring forward the next generation.
Roberto Martínez will announce his first squad as Portugal manager on the 17th of March.
💭 Surprise inclusions?
🤔 Players who will miss out? pic.twitter.com/XxgFppqIRi
— Próxima Jornada (@ProximaJornada1) March 6, 2023
Is international retirement on the cards?
A number of big names have called time on their international careers since the World Cup in Qatar, including Hugo Lloris and Raphael Varane. While Ronaldo has played down the prospects of doing the same, many believed that his move to Saudi Arabia indicated that he was winding down his career.
If Martinez does fail to pick him for his first Portugal squad in the coming days then he may well regret not going out on his terms. Given what he has accomplished throughout his career, he deserves a farewell in front of his nation so this is something he is probably considering.
Ronaldo has racked up 196 appearances for Portugal throughout his career, scoring 118 goals. His crowning moment was captaining them to European Championship glory in 2016.