Football: Martinez appointed Portugal coach, will contact Ronaldo

Portugal's new national team coach Roberto Martinez posing with a Portuguese national jersey with his name. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LISBON – Portugal named former Belgium coach Roberto Martinez as their new manager on Monday and the Spaniard said he would sit down with Cristiano Ronaldo to talk about his future in the team.

Martinez, 49, replaces Fernando Santos, who left his job after Portugal suffered a shock defeat by Morocco in the World Cup quarter-finals.

“I appreciate the enthusiasm and ambition with which he (Martinez) received the invitation,” Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) President Fernando Gomes told a news conference as Martinez stood next to him.

“This is an important moment for the national team,” he added.

Gomes confirmed AS Roma coach Jose Mourinho was a contender for the job – but said Martinez was the only coach offered the role.

“Mourinho? We talked with many different coaches that fit the profile we were looking for, but there was only one official proposition which was done to Roberto.” 

Carlos Alberto, who won the Champions League under Mourinho at Porto, says he has been offered the chance to work alongside the Portuguese as part of Brazil’s coaching staff.

“I was going to drop a bomb here, but I can’t,” he told the Mundo GV podcast. “Maybe (Mourinho) is the coach of the Brazilian team. I’m speaking first hand. It’s information.

“It doesn’t matter where the information comes from, I’m giving you the information... because he even invited me (to be his No. 2).”

However, Corriere dello Sport reported that the Portuguese turned down Brazil’s interest after being repeatedly sounded out by former Brazil striker Ronaldo.

Martinez stepped down as Belgium coach following their World Cup group-stage exit, saying he decided to end his six-year tenure some time ago and would have left even if they had been crowned champions.

He took them to No. 1 in the world rankings and third place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

“I am delighted to be able to represent one of the most talented teams in the world,” Martinez said.

“I understand there are great expectations... but I also understand there is a very large team (at the FFF)... and together we will achieve our goals.”

The 68-year-old Santos, who was widely criticised for his tactics and for leaving forward Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench for two consecutive World Cup games, became Portugal coach in 2014 and led the country in 109 matches.

They won the European Championship in 2016 and the inaugural Nations League in 2018-19.

Questioned about the future of Ronaldo in the national team, Martinez said that he would contact the 37-year-old, who last month joined Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr on a 2½ year deal. The forward is international football’s all-time record scorer with 118 goals.

He said: “Footballing decisions have to be taken on the field. I am not a manager to make decisions in an office.

“I want to contact all the players in the squad, the list of 26 players, from the last World Cup.

“That is my starting point and Cristiano is one of the players on that list. He has spent 19 years in the national team. We will sit down and speak.”

Meanwhile, Belgium’s all-time record scorer Romelu Lukaku has backed Martinez’s assistant Thierry Henry to replace him. The France and Arsenal legend, 45, has had two stints as Belgium’s assistant coach but has only twice helmed a team – Monaco and Montreal Impact.

Lukaku, 28, told Sky Italia: “For me, Henry is the next coach of Belgium. There are no doubts. I say it openly: he will be the next coach.

“He has the respect of all the players, he has won everything. He knows how to coach, he knows what we have to do to get there.

“He knows the team, the league, the staff... For me, he is the ideal coach for our national team.”

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