Advertisement

Cristiano Ronaldo plan could have major implications for Liverpool star

Diogo Jota of Liverpool celebrates with Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United while playing for Portugal.
-Credit: (Image: Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)


Portugal manager Roberto Martinez has detailed his plan to integrate Cristiano Ronaldo back into his Portugal team ahead of the upcoming European Championship. Ronaldo has been given a week off after the end of the Saudi Pro League season, which concluded with him in tears after losing a penalty shoot-out in the King's Cup Final.

Ronaldo has enjoyed an impressive season in the Middle East, scoring 35 goals in 31 league games, breaking the record for most goals in a season in the Saudi Pro League. But he was unable to win any silverware, and will now turn his attentions to trying to do just that on the international stage.

Ronaldo and Al-Hilal star Ruben Neves will now link up with the Portugal squad on Friday, but they will not feature in Saturday's friendly against Croatia. Instead, they will play their final warm-up match against the Republic of Ireland a week before their tournament opener against the Czech Republic on June 18.

READ MORE: Arne Slot needs to upgrade on Liverpool pair - five transfer targets stand out

READ MORE: Liverpool has big-money transfer plan and three positions should be biggest priority

Manger Roberto Martinez revealed: "Ruben Neves and Cristiano Ronaldo will arrive on June 7. All the players have had seven days to adapt, prepare for the Euros, and refresh their minds. The plan for the two of them is to skip the match with Croatia and play against Ireland."

That plan could have major implications for Liverpool star Diogo Jota. Jota started and scored in Portugal's first warm-up game against Finland earlier this week.

But he has struggled to nail down a regular role in the Portugal starting XI with Ronaldo's presence still huge. Ronaldo's role as the focal point in attack ahead of his 12th international tournament means it might be tricky for Jota to earn a place in the starting lineup.

However, Ronaldo missing the game against Croatia could give him one last opportunity to stake a claim before Ronaldo inevitably returns to the starting lineup.

While Liverpool fans are in no doubt as to Jota's talents, his injury problems and the presence of Ronaldo have limited his influence on the national team somewhat. He started just two games in the recent qualifying campaign, both against Lichtenstein amid heavy rotation of the squad, after missing the 2022 World Cup through injury.

He started in a central role against Finland. But that position will almost certainly become unavailable with the plan to reintroduce a refreshed Ronaldo to the fold. It could mean opportunities are limited for Jota, as Ronaldo aims to help lead Portugal to a repeat of its Euro 2016 victory.