Coach: Ronaldo contribution for Portugal unique

Portugal coach Roberto Martínez has underlined the importance of Cristiano Ronaldo to the national team by describing the veteran forward as unique in what he brings to the locker room.

Ronaldo, 39, joined Portugal’s squad on Friday for the upcoming Euro 2024.

“There is no other player in world football who can bring what Cristiano can bring to the locker room,” Martínez said in Friday’s news conference.

“It’s going to be his sixth European Championship. He is the only player to have played in five European Championships. We are talking about a unique feat in world football and this experience is important. Then we have the other players on the field and decisions to make. Cristiano is ready to help and give everything he can.”

Despite missing out on silverware this season, Ronaldo scored a Saudi Pro League-record 35 goals for Al Nassr in his first full campaign at the club.

“I think Cristiano has had very consistent performances for his club, there is no doubt that he is an incredible finisher,” Martínez said.

Portugal captain Ronaldo is the all-time leading scorer in men’s international football with 128 goals.

The former Real Madrid and Manchester United star recently spoke about wanting to remain at the top of his form for as long as possible.

Euro 2016 winners Portugal have a mix of experience and youth in their squad.

“Experience is very important during a tournament, also due to the mix of new blood in the dressing room,” Martínez said.

“It is important to manage the experience of players like Pepê or Cristiano. There has to be an environment where young players believe they can help the team.”

One of the emerging talents in the squad is Benfica’s teenage midfielder João Neves.

Neves, 19, has been linked with numerous clubs in Europe, including Manchester United, after a strong season in the Primeira Liga.

Manchester City’s midfielder Bernardo Silva is not surprised by the interest Neves has attracted.

“He [Neves] is a player that many clubs want due to his success last season,” Silva said. “I don’t have any ‘inside information,’ but that’s what I hear. Of course, I would like to see him by my side [at City], I really appreciate him as a player.

“But he has to take his own path. I don’t need to convince [Manchester City coach Pep] Guardiola, as he [Neves] convinces almost all coaches in the world with the way he works.

“I imagine that it won’t be easy for some clubs to enter the race for him, but if Joao continues with the energy he has shown, he will have a very good future ahead of him.”

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