Cristiano Ronaldo has reached that stage of his career where questions are inevitably going to be asked about how much he has left. Given how long the Portuguese superstar has spent at the very highest level, the tank was always going to run dry at some stage.
There is no indication of that point being reached any time soon, despite more uncomfortable questions being asked of him during an eventful 2022-23 campaign. A protracted exit saga at Manchester United resulted in an all-time great being released as a free agent before more bench duty was taken in when heading away on what was supposed to be a welcome distraction on international duty.
Cristiano Ronaldo looking at Fernando Santos 👀 pic.twitter.com/ernraf5cgP
— GOAL (@goal) December 6, 2022
Ronaldo’s mere presence with Portugal positioned them within the pre-tournament favorites in World Cup 2022 title odds, with Fernando Santos’ side seeking to repeat the heroics that delivered them a memorable European Championship triumph in 2016.
A legendary No.7 was expected to lead the charge for more major honors in Qatar, but he no longer enjoys universal support when it comes to being the first name on a team sheet. His powers are considered by some to be on the wane, with its time for another generation of talent to step up.
Ronaldo has never been the type to walk away from a challenge, though, and has taken great delight over the course of a quite remarkable career in silencing any doubters at regular intervals. He will believe that he remains the best man to guide Portugal forward.
The obvious question is, however, whether that mindset is shared by those around him. A seasoned performer has already conceded that he is unlikely to grace another global gathering. He has said: “I expect Qatar could be my final World Cup.”
Such a stance is to be expected, with new eras on and off the field likely to have been welcomed by the time FIFA’s flagship event heads to America, Canada, and Mexico in 2026. There is, however, another tournament to be taken in before then.
The next Euros are due to be hosted by Germany in 2024, and Ronaldo clearly believes that he can play some role for his country there. He has said of his immediate international future: “I still feel motivated; my ambition is high. I want to be part of this World Cup and the European, too; I’m going to assume that right away.”
Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench for a World Cup knockout game 🙄🤦♂️ pic.twitter.com/jE8vSC9bRU
— B/R Football (@brfootball) December 6, 2022
The intent is all well and good on Ronaldo’s part, but it remains to be seen whether big decisions will be taken out of his hands. As the leading goalscorer in men’s international football, there appears to be plenty of value in keeping him around.
It may be that he takes on more of a support role, with his vast experience put to good use behind the scenes. He is unlikely to take kindly at being asked to take a step backward, with passion continuing to burn brightly, but that could be the only way he gets to grace another final while donning a pepper red kit.