Home BETTING TIPS Should Portugal drop Ronaldo for the round of 16?

Should Portugal drop Ronaldo for the round of 16?



When Portugal dropped Cristiano Ronaldo and beat Switzerland 6-1 in the last 16 at the 2022 World Cup, it felt like a seminal moment. Fernando Santos, the manager at the time, replaced him with Gonçalo Ramos, who scored a hat-trick to justify the decision.

Replacing Ronaldo was a line in the sand for Santos. The six-time Ballon d’Or winner had reacted badly to being substituted in a previous game, and the coach was making a stand. At that stage, Ronaldo’s attitude, specifically in relation to his teammates, coaches and playing time, was worldwide news.

He’d just given an explosive interview to British broadcaster Piers Morgan claiming he didn’t respect Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag, days after walking off the bench in a match against Tottenham. He also vocalised criticism of the culture at the club; knowing his time was up for a second time at Old Trafford for a second time and he threw caution to the wind. In the following January, he joined Saudi Arabian side Al-Nassr.

Ronaldo’s supporters would say he cares about standards and that was proof. His critics would say it shone a light on the negative side to his character; the toxicity in striving for success on his terms, neglecting the wants and needs of the team. The truth is, both have always been true, but when he was impacting games, scoring goals and lifting trophies, it was never really an issue. His outbursts came at a time when football was leaving him behind; time comes for everyone, and although Ronaldo has arguably held off its impact to stay at the top of his game longer than anyone else, for club and country, a chapter appeared to be closing. Ronaldo, as an elite footballing force, was no more.

Except, that wasn’t the case. Ronaldo was back in the side for the defeat to Morocco in the quarter-finals in Qatar. Following Santos’ departure, his replacement, Roberto Martinez’s unveiling was dominated by Ronaldo’s future. He has continued to be involved regularly since.

The growth of the Saudi Pro League, with many big names following Ronaldo’s lead, kept him relevant. But there has been plenty of backlash since the start of Euro 2024 this summer, with Ronaldo leading the line despite not yet scoring a goal. Martinez hit back.

“I think when you’re talking about atmosphere, it is experience, it’s how you handle big occasions. I don’t think there is another player in world football who has had six European Championships.

“What’s important is to understand what a player brings. For us, Cristiano brings experience, he brings the knowhow, he brings the goalscoring, opportunities, the movement in the box, the opportunity to open space.

“If you want to analyse the stats of his physical (state), you just need to look at what he’s done in the past 12 months.

“Cristiano is in the national team of Portugal because he deserves to be. He scored 51 goals in 50 games and all the physical stats just back that he can play every four days.

“I think you can get your own knowledge there.”

Portugal have produced so many amazing players; at his peak, Ronaldo was unquestionably the best. He became the leader of that team, naturally dictating the style of play. It was very much the same at club level, with Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus. He brought success, because he was everything they needed; strong, quick, powerful. A game changer

It is hard to describe him as such now; still as potent as ever when he gets the chance in the box, but he has rebuilt himself as a pure goal scorer. There is no turn of pace, not dynamism anymore, so he doesn’t have much of an impact in the build up play. In fact, next to the pace, power and creativity of his teammates, notably Rafael Leao, Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva, he is actually hindering them.

That night against Switzerland in Qatar, Ramos stretched the defence and gave the myriad of Portuguese playmakers the space they needed to impact the game. Ronaldo is there, getting frustrated at everything and everyone, but perhaps mostly, the passage of time.

Portugal have the quality to win Euro 2024, but they aren’t likely to with Ronaldo up front. Teams no longer function properly around him, naturally because he is 39, but it is like nobody wants to believe that and accept it. Least of all him. There is a fear about his teammates, as if they must adjust to him and play around him. Yes, he once set the standard, but as he showed before the World Cup at Manchester United, that just isn’t the case anymore.

At some point, Portugal need to grasp that now is the time to let go of the past. It would be great for them if that started against Slovenia in another last 16 match.