The new national coach, who was speaking during his presentation as Fernando Santos' successor, was immediately asked about the captain's future in the team, after the drop in performance at the 2022 World Cup, which led the 37-year-old striker to be substituted in the last games, with Switzerland and Morocco.
“Decisions in football have to be taken on the field of play. I don't make decisions by dispatch. I want to meet all the players, contact everyone, and talk to the 26 who were at the last World Cup. That will be my starting point. Therefore, Cristiano will be one of them. In 10 weeks I want to create the best possible team for the qualifying matches for the European Championship”, said Martínez.
The 49-year-old Catalan coach stressed his intention to give opportunities to all the players who stand out in their respective teams and would never exclude Ronaldo from that equation, despite the fact that the forward is now in a league with little international recognition in Saudi Arabia.
“There are 54 Portuguese players under 28 who are in the biggest leagues. In addition, Benfica and FC Porto are in the Champions League [in the round of 16]. I have to give everyone a chance and respect those who are already part of the team. Cristiano is one of them. I've already faced some of them and I'm very excited to be able to lead them. We have a lot of work ahead of us and we have to make several short-term decisions”, he stressed.
Martínez wants Portugal to be “a very competitive team” with “ambition to fight in all competitions”, which is why it will have to be a “modern formation, with tactical versatility”, that is, capable of interpreting more than a system of game, either in 4x4x2, 4x3x3 or 3x4x3.
“That's my job, to find the best solutions, to have a well-structured team when I don't have the ball and with the ability to find solutions when I do. The Portuguese player adapts very well to foreign leagues, he always adds something competitive to the teams he is in. We want to have a winning team that represents the Portuguese footballer”, he said.
Roberto Martínez's first challenges at the head of the Portuguese national team are scheduled for March 23 and 26, in games against Liechtenstein and Luxembourg, respectively, which mark the start of Group J qualifying for Euro2024.
The Spaniard arrives in Portugal after more than six years in charge of the Belgium national team, which he recently left, following their elimination from the group stage of the 2022 World Cup.
Until then, Martínez had guided the Belgians to third place at the 2018 World Cup, which he reached as the leader of the FIFA rankings.
Before arriving at the Belgian national team, Martínez coached Swansea, Wigan, and Everton, in England, and succeeds Fernando Santos, who left office after Portugal’s elimination in the quarterfinals of the 2022 World Cup, against Morocco (1-0).
With Swansea, he won League One, the third tier of English football, in 2007/08, and won the FA Cup with Wigan in 2012/13.
Fernando Santos, who led the Portuguese national team since 2014, left on December 15, 2022, after winning Euro2016 and the 2019 League of Nations competition.