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European Football Championship: “Any other questions?” Ronaldo’s bitter end

With the quarter-final defeat against France, Cristiano Ronaldo’s European Championship career also comes to an end. And everyone is asking themselves: how far could the Portuguese have got in this tournament without their old star?

It is not always easy to play in a team with Cristiano Ronaldo. Portugal defender Rúben Dias, for example, won the Champions League with Manchester City and the English championship four times. The 27-year-old is a big name in European football himself, otherwise his club would not have paid a transfer fee of around 70 million euros for him four years ago.

After the European Championship exit in the quarter-finals against France, Dias stood at the exit of Hamburg’s Volksparkstadion and was asked not about his performance, but about that of “CR7”. Everything about the Portuguese revolves around their superstar, it has been like that for years. But after this bitter 3:5 defeat in the penalty shootout, one of the best and most important teammates was fed up with it. “Are there any other questions?” asked Dias – and left.

For the European Championship record player and goalscorer Ronaldo, this defeat was the last European Championship game of his career. He will not be taking part in the next European Championship in 2028 in Great Britain and Ireland. The 39-year-old had already announced this before the France game.

First major tournament without a goal

For the ambitious and status-conscious striker, this departure from at least one big stage was a real disaster, because the response was not: respect for someone who is still playing at this level at the age of 39. Rather: how far could the Portuguese have got in this tournament without him? What would have been possible if they had not sacrificed the principle of performance for the most famous player in their history, but had instead trusted Gonçalo Ramos (Paris Saint-Germain), who is 16 years younger, or Diogo Jota (Liverpool FC), who is 12 years younger, in attack?

This assessment is supported solely by the bare numbers. In his eleventh World Cup or European Championship, Ronaldo failed to score a goal for the first time. On Friday evening, he only touched the ball 40 times in 120 minutes of play. The duel between the superstars with France’s ailing striker Kylian Mbappé passed him completely by.

Worst score of the game

Portugal’s biggest sports newspaper, A Bola, gave Ronaldo the worst rating of all players. “The team improved its performance compared to previous games. However, the same could not be said for the captain,” it said. “He was neither connected to his teammates nor able to assert himself.”

The Guardian’s conclusion was even more devastating. “Portugal versus France: A galactic battle lost in the black hole of one man’s ego,” was the British newspaper’s headline.

This harsh verdict stems from the widespread suspicion that Ronaldo’s influence on the Portuguese team is still far too great. No one dares to criticise him or put him on the bench. And he himself puts achieving personal records above the success of the entire team.

There are also indications of this: for example, that almost all Portuguese players consoled the only missed kick, João Félix, after the penalty shootout – except for the captain. Or that 20 of the 26 players in the Portuguese squad at this European Championship are represented by Ronaldo’s management. This also strengthens his position.

Farewell to the national team?

Only Portugal’s coach Roberto Martínez insisted until the end of the tournament that his retention of Ronaldo was purely for sporting reasons. “For us as a national team, he is a role model,” said the Spaniard. “He wants to win every day. He wants to compete every day.”

It is unclear whether Ronaldo will continue until the next World Cup in two years. He himself disappeared without comment into the team bus after the France match. And Martínez also avoided questions about it. Even the 41-year-old Pepe could not bring himself to say goodbye to the national team on Friday evening. This is not the right time to talk about it, said Ronaldo’s long-time friend and teammate.

One thing is certain: Portugal’s team has a bright future even without these two veterans. Diogo Costa (FC Porto), Vitinha, Nuno Mendes (both Paris Saint-Germain) or Rafael Leão (AC Milan): none of these regular players is older than 25. And top talents are constantly emerging. “It’s a tough moment today. But there’s still a lot to come from us,” said Rúben Dias. And that’s more likely without Ronaldo than with him.

Source: Stern

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