Portugal coach calls on Cristiano Ronaldo to deliver at Euros
Cristiano Ronaldo is more important for Portugal than Real Madrid, says national team coach Fernando Santos and is counting on him to use his impressive season as a springboard for a strong Euro 2016 campaign.
Ronaldo joined his national team in training on Sunday, eight days after scoring the winning penalty against Atletico Madrid for Real to lift the Champions League trophy.
His presence is a boost for Portugal, who lost 1-0 to England in a friendly last week and take on Estonia on Wednesday in Lisbon in their final warm-up game.
Santos had wanted to give Ronaldo and Real defender Pepe a chance to a catch their breath before they joined the team.
"They needed to rest," Santos told Spanish sports magazine Marca. "It’s better for everyone that they arrive happy and with that extra bounce after achieving their aims."
Ronaldo scored 51 goals in 48 games in all competitions for Real this season.
"If he is so important for Real, you can only imagine how significant he is for Portugal. Certainly the same or even more.
"When you have players that score 50 to 60 goals per season, and who can always score, they are of vital importance. It’s impossible to quantify."
Ronaldo’s fitness is a concern, with tendinitis preventing him from being at his best at the 2014 World Cup when Portugal crashed out in the group stages.
"There’s always talk that all the players must arrive 100 per cent, but that is never the reality," Santos said.
"Obviously, it would be ideal if he was at his best but I would never stop calling Cristiano even if he was at 80 per cent."
Ronaldo came close to winning a trophy with Portugal at Euro 2004 but Greece beat them in the final and reached the semi-finals four years ago, where Spain eliminated them on penalties.
"If we think of the generation of players we have had, it’s about time," Santos said.
"Portugal should have already won a European title but just like Spain, they took their time and now they have managed to win several trophies."