Cristiano Ronaldo joins Euro 2024 still scoring but with less soap operatic appearances.

Cristiano Ronaldo is no longer carrying Portugal, having supported the national team for so many years. He’s far along in his victory lap now. The title for a video including some of his best moments from last week’s 3-0 friendly victory against the Republic of Ireland on Sport TV read, “Your happiness is our happiness, captain.” Ronaldo’s every move at a previous tournament was nuanced and might have changed the outcome, but the team no longer feels like they are in a soap opera every day. When the team arrived at their Euro 2024 base in Germany, Ronaldo told reporters, “I see quite a calm team, I don’t see anyone anxious.”

The first open training session Portugal held in Germany was not met with the same serenity. 8,200 people showed out for the training at Gütersloh’s Heidewaldstadion on Friday; tickets were reportedly being sold for as much as €1,000 (£850), and of course, Ronaldo was embraced and jostled by a number of pitch invaders. Almost two decades ago, when the captain turned into a genuine megastar at Manchester United, Portugal’s performances at big tournaments have taken on a circus-like quality. Whatever the squad’s enduring elite caliber, the eras before, during, and after Cristiano will be radically different from one another.

Portugal is beginning to acknowledge the start of the third stage for the first time. When Roberto Martínez came over as head coach in January 2023, the Ronaldo issue appeared to be the most difficult inherited. However, as with many elements of the Spaniard’s successful rule thus far, the build-up to the issue has been more worrying than the actual occurrence. Portugal’s qualification campaign saw Ronaldo, the team’s leading scorer with 10 goals as they earned the 10 wins from 10 games that are a major feather in Martínez’s cap, be as dominant as ever in terms of men’s international football history.

Martínez’s ability to provide good service to Ronaldo without giving in to his every desire is a testament to his light touch as the coach, who was supposed to end the international career of the most dominant personality in Portuguese football history, has continued to do so. He mentioned Pepe and Ronaldo’s enormous impact on Portugal in a news conference a few days prior to the tournament, but he did not declare either player unbeatable. “The players who set a daily example, not the words a coach can say to them, are what make a dressing room strong,” Martínez stated. Pepe and Cristiano are amazing models to follow. They expect the best from other players and foster a really good environment.

But it goes beyond the coach who is in charge. At the very least, Martínez owes his predecessor Fernando Santos a case of vinho verde for being the first to take the risk and bench Ronaldo for a big match, like he did for Portugal’s match against Switzerland in the 2022 World Cup semifinals. Gonçalo Ramos’s hat-trick and the decisive 6-1 victory in Doha confirmed what many at home had long suspected: that the national team could succeed without its most well-known product.

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