Replacing Manchester United, "CR7" remains a major player in the Portuguese selection.
The star is still him. Confined to playing a secondary role in the club this season, Cristiano Ronaldo remains “important” for the Portuguese selection which faces the Czech Republic on Saturday (8:45 p.m.) in Prague on the penultimate day of the League of Nations.
The 37-year-old striker, accustomed to relentlessly chaining minutes and goals since the start of his professional career in 2002, must now be content with substitute status at Manchester United.
Of the ten games played by the Red Devils during the 2022/2023 financial year, the five-time Ballon d'Or has only appeared in the starting lineup three times. In his place, his Dutch coach Erik ten Hag notably prefers to align the English international Marcus Rashford.
By starting regularly on the sidelines, "CR7" sees his statistics take a hit. He had to wait until last week to score his first goal this season, a penalty scored on the lawn of the modest Moldovan club Sheriff Tiraspol (2-0 victory) in the Europa League, one of the few matches where Ronaldo has started.
But despite his low playing time, in Portugal, he is unanimous. Everyone is counting on him, starting with coach Fernando Santos.
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“Also at the Euro”
"I don't think anyone doubts that Cristiano Ronaldo continues to be important for the selection," said the 67-year-old coach when unveiling his list for the last Nations League meetings, against the Czech Republic and the Czech Republic. 'Spain.
From the top of his 189 selections and especially his 117 goals, a world record, the superstar always seems to have priority at the forefront of the Portuguese attack in the head of his coach.
As proof, among the names of the selected for this last gathering before the World Cup-2022 in Qatar (November 20-December 18), that of the center-forward of RB Leipzig André Silva is absent.
Fernando Santos only called a number nine after the surprise announcement on Monday of the international retirement of Benfica midfielder Rafa Silva, replaced by young Eagles striker Gonçalo Ramos, for whom this is the first call.
For his part, Ronaldo does not hide his desire to continue the adventure with his national team, at least until Euro-2024, when he will be approaching 40 years old.
“My journey is not over yet. You are going to have to support +Cris+ for some time to come”, said the native of Funchal on Tuesday when receiving the Quinas de Ouro prize for the top scorer of the selections, awarded by the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF).
"I want to be present at the World Cup (2022) and also at the Euro (2024) I already assume it (...) my ambition is great", he added.
“He is exceptional”
"CR7" does not appear satisfied, he who has yet played nine major tournaments with the Seleçao.
Similarly, he does not seem willing to give way to the new generation, symbolized in particular by AC Milan striker Rafael Leao, even if he recognizes integrating "a selection made up of many young players with a future extraordinary".
Asked Thursday about his captain's statements, Wolverhampton midfielder Ruben Neves did not seem surprised.
"In a way, we already knew it for his way of working, his involvement, each time he is called up for selection he is exceptional (...) he will be more than ready for these competitions", affirmed the 25-year-old player.
Second in their group, one length behind Spain, Portugal must score points in the Czech Republic if they want to keep their chances of the Final Four before a clash on Tuesday when they receive the Spanish neighbor.
In this context, Cristiano Ronaldo's ability to score could prove decisive as the Portuguese give the impression of sinning in this area in his absence.
In June, without him, the 2016 European champions suffered a defeat in Switzerland (1-0) without managing to find the net despite numerous opportunities.
For the moment, the Seleçao have yet to find a replacement for their old star, whose goalscoring instinct has allowed him to reach an impressive total of 816 achievements during his career.