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Will the fading rivalry with Messi bring out the best in Ronaldo at Euro 2024? | Football News

Up until the 2022 World Cup, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi were neck and neck in their rivalry. If anything, Ronaldo was ahead because of Portugal’s Euros win in 2016. Messi did win Euros’ equivalent that is Copa America in 2021 but the South and North American championship doesn’t really match up to the quality and competitiveness of the Euros, if truth be told.

Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring their third goal(REUTERS)

So, Messi really needed a bigger trophy to upstage Ronaldo and he did just that with Argentina’s win in the World Cup in Qatar one and a half years ago. Ronaldo is now looking for some sort of a comeback at Euro 2024 which starts tonight in Germany.

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Although a Euros trophy pales in comparison with a World Cup trophy, Ronaldo will be able to add some wings to his fading legacy particularly in international football. That’s why Euro 2024 is so important for him.

The last few years have not been great for Ronaldo. Portugal fared badly at the 2018 and 2022 World Cup editions, losing their Round of 16 and quarterfinal ties respectively. In the last Euros too, they couldn’t progress beyond their Round of 16 tie.

At 39 years of age and the next football World Cup scheduled for 2026, no way will there be another international opportunity of this magnitude for Ronaldo to rekindle comparisons and rivalry with Messi.

Ronaldo has been playing for Saudi club Al Nassr since early last year. He is getting great money out there but things have not been exactly great. So far, it’s been a controversial stint. He has often fallen out with the spectators. He has been fined too. He once called the Saudi league better than the French League, which fetched him the ire of fans from the rest of the world. Besides, his team has finished a distant second in the latest season, behind Al-Hilal by a massive 14 points.

From a personal point of view, he has been on point though. He scored 44 goals across competitions, including 35 in the Saudi Pro League to win the Golden Boot. But all that will count for nothing, if he doesn’t help Portugal win the Euros. And he knows that.

At the 2022 World Cup, Ronaldo and then manager Fernando Santos appeared to be at loggerheads and the forward didn’t get as much game time as he would have liked. To make matters worse, he didn’t start the knockout games against Switzerland and Morocco (he came on as a substitute).

Current Portugal manager Roberto Martinez, however, appears to have much more faith in Ronaldo. Last month, when he named Ronaldo in his squad he said the forward still had a lot to offer in front of goal and that his side really needed him.

So, Ronaldo is all set to revive his international legacy. But the question that’s haunting football fans at present is: does he really have any gas left in the tank for a competition like the Euros? Besides, one wonders if having played in a lesser league like the Saudi Pro League has blunted his sharpness for Euro 2024.

One thing is obvious though. He cannot do it alone for Portugal. He will need the support of his team-mates. Football is a team game and one always needs the support of their team-mates but this time Ronaldo, having been past his prime, will need it much more than he needed before.

Portugal are grouped with the Czech Republic (against whom they open their campaign on the night of June 18), Georgia and Turkey. Earlier this week Ronaldo, most capped male player in international football history, said: “I’m proud to be the first player to play in six EURO tournaments. I’m thrilled about it as it shows the longevity of my career. However, it’s merely a chapter in what Cristiano Ronaldo has achieved in football.”

He appears to be indulging in vanity with the last sentence but that’s just bluff, believe it or not. Ronaldo knows he needs to win it to stay relevant in international football for a long, long time. Rest assured; he is going to leave no stone unturned.

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