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BERLIN: Time has filled up again for aging Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo after his infamous exit from Euro 2024.

France knocked out the 2016 winners 5-3 on penalties after Friday’s goalless quarter-final in Hamburg and Ronaldo was ineffective at best, damaging his own side’s aspirations at worst.

When former coach Fernando Santos benched Ronaldo for the team’s 6-1 demolition of Switzerland at the 2022 World Cup, Portugal’s bright future flashed on the horizon.

However, his successor Roberto Martinez has supported the 39-year-old, who currently plays for Al-Nassr in Saudi Arabia, throughout.

Portugal kept the former striker of Real Madrid and Manchester United as their figurehead, qualified for the Euros with a 100 percent record and were among the favorites in Germany.

However, they are underperforming as Ronaldo has failed to find the net in five games this summer. The striker is without a goal in the last nine major tournament matches.

Despite boasting strong options to replace him, including Liverpool’s Diogo Jota and Paris Saint-Germain’s Goncalo Ramos, Martinez refused to sit Ronaldo against France.

Didier Deschamps replaced Les Bleus icon Kylian Mbappe, who struggled to push forward, but Ronaldo remained level as the play passed him by.

In the last-16 win over Slovenia, Ronaldo missed a penalty in extra time and broke down in tears, a disruptive sideshow, but Martinez hailed the striker’s emotional post-match reaction as a sign of his passion.

However, many suspect that those tears were not for Portugal but for himself as he failed to break the record of the oldest player to ever score at a European Championship.

Ronaldo also ended his streak of scoring in every major international tournament he played in, failing to extend his record 14 goals at the Euros.

In Germany, he conceded 23 shots without success, and perhaps the most threatening was a scintillating opportunity in extra time against France.

Skilled winger Francisco Conceicao cut the ball back to the striker a few meters from the goal, but he fired his team’s clearest chance high over the crossbar.

It was a chance that Ronaldo has used hundreds of times in his career.

Ronaldo’s presence significantly conditions the way Portugal plays.

His teammates, including creative geniuses Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva, often resort to crosses to find him.

Ronaldo no longer has the pace to consistently break behind the defense, which limits the playmaking options of the team’s centre-backs.

Not only did Martinez not seem strong enough to leave Ronaldo out of his plans entirely, he also failed to bring himself to replace the striker at the tournament, save for a shock 2-0 defeat to Georgia.

Ronaldo started this match even though Portugal were guaranteed to win the group, while virtually every other regular was rested.

After being dropped by the France side, the coach said Ronaldo’s future at international level had not been decided.

“We just finished the game, everything is still too raw, we are suffering defeat as a team, there are no individual decisions at this point,” Martinez told reporters.

One of the reasons why the Spanish coach may not feel strong enough to cut the cord is the “cult of Cristiano” evident among the team’s supporters.

Attending a match in Portugal means swimming in a sea of ​​maroon Ronaldo ‘7’ shirts, with some fans wearing masks of their talisman’s face.

Even opposition fans turn up to watch the Ronaldo circus, although now there are more sulks and pouts than goals.

“(Our fans) mainly wanted to see Ronaldo, that’s why they flocked to the match,” noted Slovenian midfielder Adam Gnezda Cerin from the March friendly in which they beat Ronaldo and Portugal 2-0.

Although they were eventually knocked out on penalties by Portugal at the Euros, they once again exposed Ronaldo’s shortcomings at this level and France finished the job.

Ronaldo has admitted that these will be his last Euros, but with Portugal now turning their attention to the 2026 World Cup, their chances are sure to improve without the killer of his past.

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