Portugal manager Fernando Santos is confident star striker Cristiano Ronaldo will not retire regardless of the outcome in the Euro 2016 final on Sunday, ESPN reports.
The 31-year-old will spearhead Portugal’s attack against France after starring in their semi-final win over Wales, crashing an unstoppable header into the net and setting up Nani for a 2-0 win.
Ronaldo has spoken in the lead up to the final of his “dream” to win a major tournament with his national side, but there are concerns from some that should Portugal lose against France on Sunday, the former Manchester United winger may decide to call it quits on the international stage.
Those fears have been stoked by Ronaldo’s long-time Barcelona adversary Lionel Messi’s shock decision to retire from international duty following Argentina’s defeat in the Copa America final.
But Portugal manager Santos believes his captain will continue in the Portugal side regardless of the result.
“He’ll play for another six, seven, 10 years,” the former Sporting Lisbon manager said. “I don’t know. But tomorrow [Sunday] won’t be his final match.”
The Real Madrid superstar was part of the squad to reach the Euro 2004 final but left the pitch in tears after suffering a shock 1-0 defeat to Greece. Twelve years on, the three-time Ballon d’Or winner will lead out a new generation and Santos has highlighted his “outstanding” leadership qualities.
“Over the past two years, he wants to be better and better,” he added. “He’s angry at himself when things don’t go his way.
“But his ability to captain our team is standing out now. Everyone acknowledges it now and that’s the end result of his will to improve.”
The former Greece manager briefly managed a young Ronaldo when he was at Sporting Lisbon in 2003, but the winger left for Manchester United soon after that. Despite their brief time, Santos looks back in fondness at the impression Ronaldo left on him.
“I coached him 13 or 14 years ago at Sporting, but not for very long because he played the day that the stadium [Estadio Jose Alvalade] was inaugurated, and then a bit later he went to Manchester and never came back,” Santos said.
“He was amazing, very talented, and wanted to win. He’s very mentally strong and he’s a born winner. He wants to be the best, to be more and more perfect.”