Portugal manager Roberto Martinez has explained why he reinstated Cristiano Ronaldo in the national team’s starting lineup immediately after he took charge.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner saw his prominence in the Portugal team reduce during the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Then-manager Fernando Santos relegated the forward to the bench for the team’s knockout games before the Selecao were eliminated by Morocco in the quarterfinals.
Upon taking charge as Portugal’s new manager in January, Martinez said that Ronaldo was in his plans.
The tactician then reinstated the superstar in the lineup for the team’s 2024 UEFA European Champions qualifiers against Liechtenstein and Luxembourg in March.
Ronaldo repaid Martinez for his trust, leading the Selecao to a 4-0 and a 6-0 win against Liechtenstein and Luxembourg respectively. He scored twice in each of those games, taking his tally in international football to 122.
Martinez has now justified why he decided to reinstate Ronaldo in Portugal’s starting XI immediately. The Spaniard said that he made the choice based on the forward’s ability, contributions and commitment.
“I don’t believe in making decisions in an office. We shouldn’t decide based on what we think, it’s wrong. When I arrived at the national team, I received a list of all the players, what they did and their commitment,” Martinez was quoted as saying by Portuguese outlet SAPO Desporto.
Martinez pointed out how Ronaldo has worked hard for Portugal over the last two decades. He added that the Al-Nassr superstar has made more appearances (198) than any other player in international football.
“My responsibility as a coach is to respect all the members for what they have done in the past. Cristiano Ronaldo gave 20 years of his career to the national team and he is the only player in the world of football who is close to 200 international games. Then I have the greatest power: being neutral. I have to use football to make the decision, not myself. And that’s what I did,” Martinez added.
The Portugal manager went on to laud Ronaldo’s leadership and commitment to the team.
“Cristiano Ronaldo is a fantastic captain, totally dedicated to the team, and on the pitch, scored four goals (during the last international break),” the Spaniard concluded.
The Selecao will face Bosnia & Herzegovina and Iceland in European Championship qualifiers on June 18 and 21 respectively.