Was it the last time we’ll see Cristiano Ronaldo at the Euros?
The final whistle of Portugal’s Round of 16 loss to Belgium really had that air about it. Ronaldo, the 36-year-old Portuguese captain, was visibly dejected and the image was a memorable one: Ronaldo crouched down, seemingly coming to grips with his team’s elimination. The next edition of the Euros comes in 2024 in Germany, when Ronaldo will be 39.
Ronaldo throws, kicks armband
Ronaldo was dejected enough to toss the captain’s armband to the ground and kick it on his way off the field, just a couple of months after getting into hot water about this very thing following a 2-2 draw against Serbia.
Some are piling on, also accusing Ronaldo of poor sportsmanship for his message to Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, in which he bemoaned the fact that the ball seemingly didn’t want to go in for Portugal. It seemed reasonable given that Portugal outshot the Belgians 23-6 and hit the post, but you be the judge:
What also got plenty of attention was the heartfelt postgame embrace with Belgium forward Romelu Lukaku, who will be chasing Ronaldo’s tournament-leading five goals for the Euro top scorer crown:
Ronaldo leaves the Euros at the top of the scoring charts with five goals (including three on penalty kicks), and with the record for most all-time Euro goals scored (14) and most all-time Euro tournaments played (5).
He also departs in a tie with Ali Daei for most international goals by a men’s player, a record which is sure to fall during Portugal’s World Cup qualification cycle.
What’s next for Cristiano Ronaldo with Portugal?
There’s little doubt that barring injury, we’ll see him at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, when Ronaldo will be 37. Portugal, led by Ronaldo, currently occupies first place in its World Cup qualifying group and is likely to make it.
He’s already planning on playing in the upcoming 2021-2022 European club season. He’s under contract with Italian giants Juventus, although rumors are circulating about whether he’ll make a move this summer.
The Qatar World Cup will be held on a different schedule compared to past editions which were played in the summer. The next edition will kick off on November 21, 2022, when Ronaldo will be a couple of months shy of his 38th birthday.
There have been plenty of goalkeepers over the age of 35 to participate in a World Cup, but the oldest field player was Cameroon’s Roger Milla, who famously led the Indomitable Lions to the 1990 World Cup quarterfinals and then scored a goal in the 1994 edition as a 42-year-old.
Will Ronaldo get there? There are some observers who are characterizing his recent 29-goal season for Juventus and his performances at the Euros, as the beginning of his decline. His Portugal head coach Fernando Santos was having none of it postgame:
“He scored five goals in the tournament and, OK, he didn’t score today, but he was a true captain in every sense of the word. He tried to turn the game around. There is no issue with Ronaldo.”
If Ronaldo is even thinking about moving on from the national team, he didn’t hint at it in his Instagram message for Portugal’s fans. Here’s the translated version: