Roberto Martinez on how he handled Cristiano Ronaldo when he took over as Portugal manager
When Portugal announced Roberto Martinez as the nation’s new manager in January 2023, Cristiano Ronaldo had just moved to Saudia Arabia to join Al-Nassr following his bitter exit from Manchester United just a couple of months before.
World Cup 2022 sat in the middle of Ronaldo’s huge shift in his club career, but the Portuguese talisman could do little to affect his country from bowing out in the quarter-finals to Morocco.
In fact, he didn’t even start that game, instead having to settle for coming on as a second-half substitute. Plenty in Portugal were calling time on his international career, despite his record 122 goals in 198 appearances, leaving Martinez with a seemingly difficult situation to deal with when taking over as the new manager.
The Spaniard explains how he handled the situation to FourFourTwo, though, as well as improving the mood of the players who faced heartbreak just a month beforehand.
“My first step when I took over was to meet with every player who was in the squad for the World Cup,” Martinez tells FFT. “I did that and I met Cristiano Ronaldo. You very quickly get an idea of what this team is about and how important the national team is, not just to the players but to the country itself.
“When I faced Portugal in the last 16 of the  European Championship, it came across very, very clearly that this is a competitive side. They know how to compete and they know how to get results at big tournaments. From that point, it’s about trying to make the right selections.
“At the moment I’ve got 52 players and every one of them could be in the squad! It’s about establishing a balanced team. We have players in the most important dressing rooms in European football.”
Of course, Ronaldo isn’t playing in Europe anymore, instead plying his trade in the Saudi Pro League. Ronaldo’s impact since moving to Saudi Arabia has certainly been felt in the Middle East, though. While he’s 38, having a player with the stature and ability of Ronaldo is difficult to comprehend for supporters of Al-Nassr.
Abdulmajeed Al-Arrak is a lifelong Nassrawi and recently had his own surprise international encounter with the increasingly familiar yellow-and-blue jersey, at Milan’s famed cathedral.
“Seeing someone wearing an Al-Nassr shirt in Milan absolutely blew my mind,” Al-Arrak explains to FFT. “In an historic city, a football city, at that historic place. This is what Cristiano Ronaldo does. It’s like having Apple or General Motors moving their headquarters to Saudi Arabia – you don’t have an individual, you have this global brand and everything that comes with it. He’s more than a player.”