LISBON ( Associated Press) — The Portugal team announced Monday the signing of former Belgium coach Roberto Martinez, who vowed to honor Cristiano Ronaldo’s illustrious career with the team.
The Spanish strategist replaces Fernando Santos, who left office in December following Portugal’s elimination by Morocco in the World Cup quarter-finals.
Santos left amid controversy after Cristiano was relegated to the bench in the knockout stage of the tournament in Qatar.
“I want to contact all the players, the list of 26 players from the last World Cup is my starting point and Cristiano is a player on that list,” Martinez said. “He’s been in the national team for 19 years and he deserves the respect of being able to sit and talk and make the best team out there for matches to qualify for the Eurocup in 10 weeks.”
Martínez ended his six-year stay with Belgium, having disappointed in being eliminated in the group stage of the World Cup. Once again, the Spaniard failed in his attempt to crown an outstanding generation of footballers.
He arrives in a Portugal full of talented players such as Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes and Joao Felix, but also with doubts about the future of Cristiano, 37, who now plays in Saudi Arabia.
“It’s my job to try to give all the players a chance and to respect all the players who are out there already in the national team. Like all other players, Cristiano Ronaldo is also one of them. Some of them are already in front of me. I have faced them and I am happy to have them on my side”, said the strategist.
He recalled that there are 54 Portuguese footballers in the five main European leagues under the age of 28. He assured that he would pay special attention to them.
“The Portuguese has adapted well to foreign leagues. He always gives a competitive degree to his team”, he insisted. “I am very excited that the Portuguese can provide a way of playing that is winning and represents the Portuguese footballer. I believe in the project, in the Portuguese player and that is why I am excited to fulfill the objectives Am.
The 49-year-old coach led Belgium to a third-place finish at the 2018 World Cup and the quarter-finals of Euro 2020. Talented players like Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Belgium’s historic goalscorer Romelu Lukaku.
Martinez has said that he has decided to give up the reins of the Belgium team ahead of the World Cup in Qatar.
He played and managed in England before being signed by Belgium in 2016. His greatest achievement in club football was winning the FA Cup with Wigan in 2013.
Eventually, the club was relegated from the Premier League in the same season. Martínez was named in charge of Everton, where he had directed for three years before his sacking.
Santos, 68, departed after managing Portugal for eight. They won two titles, the 2016 Euro—the country’s first relevant championship—and the 2019 League of Nations.
He reached an agreement with the federation to reduce his contract by two years.
Martínez said, “It’s always easy to succeed as a great coach, because you inherit all the good things he does.” “I thank Fernando Santos for the great job he is doing and I will try to continue the great work he has done so that we can continue to have a winning team.”