Cristiano Ronaldo's inclusion in Portugal's 'new cycle' explained by Roberto Martinez as he defends CR7 after poor 2022 World Cup showing

Cristiano Ronaldo Portugal 2023
  • Ronaldo selected by Martinez after poor World Cup
  • Manager points towards experience and leadership
  • CR7 has four goals in two matches under Martinez

WHAT HAPPENED? After leaving Manchester United under a cloud of controversy, Ronaldo led Portugal as captain at the 2022 World Cup under previous manager Fernando Santos, but his underwhelming performances saw him replaced by Benfica starlet Goncalo Ramos in the knock-out stages. At 38 years old and with Portugal's wealth of attacking talent, it looked like Ronaldo's days for the national side were numbered. But new coach Martinez has included him in both his squads since arriving in January, and pointed towards the forward's experience and leadership as an explanation.

WHAT THEY SAID: The Spanish tactician told talkSPORT: “I was appointed on January 9 and had six weeks with the starting point of meeting every player who was in that list of 26 players in Qatar. So you’re talking about going to the five top leagues in Europe, going to Saudi Arabia and being in Portugal and it was fascinating to see every player and how they developed their roles in different dressing rooms in different leagues. At that point you get the opportunity to meet the person behind the footballer and for me, it was a very clear moment.

“I met all the players and in that you see what it means to play football and where they are in their careers. For Cristiano, he wasn’t ready to step away. He was ready and wanting to be a part of the new cycle and at that point it was very easy to include him into the March camp, and then you can make a football decision. He scored four goals, he was a real leader, a captain and someone who brings an experience that no other player has in world football. He’s someone who can reach 200 caps for your country and someone who needs to be used in your dressing room.”

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THE BIGGER PICTURE: Indeed, Martinez's decision to not only include but also start Ronaldo in Portugal's previous European qualifiers against Liechtenstein and Luxembourg was certainly vindicated. The Al-Nassr captain scored a brace in each match as he made history for men's international appearances, and Portugal racked up a mammoth ten goals to take control of Group J.


Cristiano Ronaldo Portugal goal Euro 2024 qualifierGettyRoberto Martinez Cristiano Ronaldo Portugal 2023Getty

WHAT NEXT FOR RONALDO? The five-time Ballon d'Or winner will no doubt lead the line for Portugal again in their next two European fixtures, which come at home to Bosnia and away at Iceland on June 17 and 20, respectively.