Cristiano Ronaldo was included in the first Portugal squad announced by new coach Roberto Martinez on Friday for Euro 2024 qualifying matches against Liechtenstein and Luxembourg.
The 38-year-old “is very important for the team,” the Spanish coach stressed during a press conference in which he unveiled his squad of 26.
“I do not look at the age,” said Martinez.
Portugal will face Liechtenstein on March 23 in Lisbon before traveling to Luxembourg on March 26.
Martinez said his first squad “is important because it is the starting point” for Euro 2024.
Ronaldo, whose international career began in August 2003 in a friendly against Kazakhstan, holds the world record for men’s international goals with 118.
History suggests that if he returns to the starting line-up, he will boost his total in the next two matches, at least against Luxembourg.
Portugal has played Liechtenstein seven times, winning six and drawing one, in a World Cup qualifier in 2004 which Ronaldo started but did not finish. They have outscored Liechtenstein 35-3, but Ronaldo has never scored against the Principality.
Portugal has faced Luxembourg 19 times, winning 17 and losing just one, outscoring them 59-8. Ronaldo has hit nine of those, his most against any international team.
Ronaldo has represented Portugal in every international competition since Euro 2004, collecting a European championship winners’ medal in 2016.
His quest to add a World Cup medal in Qatar last year started well as he became the first player to score in five editions when he converted a penalty in a win against Ghana.
But he was left out of the starting line-up for the last-16 clash as Portugal ripped Switzerland apart.
When Portugal lost to Morocco in the quarter-finals, he started on the bench and ended the tournament in tears.
Squad in full:
Goalkeepers: Diogo Costa (Porto), Jose Sa (Wolves/ENG), Rui Patricio (Roma/ITA)
Defenders: Diogo Dalot (Manchester United/ENG), Joao Cancelo (Manchester City/ENG), Danilo Pereira (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA), Pepe (Porto), Ruben Dias (Manchester City/ENG), Antonio Silva (Benfica), Goncalo Inacio (Sporting Lisbon), Diogo Leite (Union Berlin/GER), Nuno Mendes (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA), Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund/GER)
Midfielders: Joao Palhinha (Fulham/ENG), Ruben Neves (Wolves/ENG), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City/ENG), Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United/ENG), Joao Mario (Benfica), Matheus Nunes (Wolves/ENG), Otavio Monteiro (Porto), Vitinha (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA)
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo (Al Nassr/KSA), Goncalo Ramos (Benfica), Joao Felix (Chelsea/ENG), Rafael Leao (AC Milan/ITA), Diogo Jota (Liverpool/ENG). (AFP)