Friday, June 14, 2024

Arsenal legend claims Cristiano Ronaldo should be benched at Euro 2024

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Cristiano Ronaldo has over 200 caps for Portugal (Picture: Getty)

Paul Merson has urged Portugal to take the difficult decision to bench Cristiano Ronaldo for the start of Euro 2024.

Ronaldo enters his sixth European Championships having spent the last 18 months at Saudi Pro League club Al Nassr, where he has scored 64 goals in 70 appearances.

The 39-year-old is Portugal’s greatest-ever player and will look to add to his 206 caps and 128 goals at the Euros in Germany.

But Merson believes Ronaldo should start the tournament from the bench and only come into the side once Portugal’s qualification to the knockout stages has been secured.

Roberto Martinez’s side, who are in Group F, kick-start their Euros campaign on June 18 against Czech Republic, before completing the group stage against Turkey and Georgia.

Assessing Portugal’s chances of winning the Euros, ex-Arsenal and England star Merson told Sportskeeda: ‘Portugal are an aging team but they have a lot of experience within the squad.

‘There’s too much individual quality for them not to gel together as a unit, so I think they’ll fare quite well at Euro 2024.

Cristiano Ronaldo
Ronaldo has spent the last 18 months playing in Saudi Arabia (Picture: Getty)

‘With Pepe and Ruben Dias at the back, they are defensively strong and there is a lot of guile in midfield, while they are blessed with devastating pace and goals upfront.

‘Bruno Fernandes is a top-class footballer and should play a starring role for Portugal, while Cristiano Ronaldo is still with the squad despite entering the twilight years of his career.

‘He’s still their captain and banging in the goals in Saudi Arabia, but I think they’ll see what he’s like in the camp and take a call on his selection.

‘I would personally leave him out of the first two league games and get qualification sorted before bringing him back for the final encounter.

‘If he plays well, he can keep his spot and that’s the right way to go about it as it’s a massive jump for someone to come into the European championships after playing at such a lesser standard in Saudi.’

Portugal became European champions for the first time in 2016 before suffering a last-16 defeat to Belgium at Euro 2020.

After topping their World Cup group in Qatar, Portugal reached the quarter-finals before a shock defeat to Morocco.

Portugal’s Euro 2024 squad also includes Ronaldo’s former Manchester United team-mates Bruno Fernandes and Diogo Dalot and Manchester City duo Ruben Dias and Bernardo Silva.


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