Cristiano Ronaldo was handed a debut for Al Nassr against Al Ittifaq on Sunday as the veteran striker made his first Saudi Pro League appearance.

Real Madrid's record goalscorer is set to play out the final years of his club career in Saudi Arabia, having signed a lucrative contract through to 2025 in December.

His debut for Al Nassr was delayed as 37-year-old Ronaldo served a two-match ban imposed by the English Football Association for an incident that saw him slap a phone from the hand of a young Everton supporter in a game at Goodison Park last season.

However, he was cleared to make his Al Nassr bow at last, with a new chapter beginning for the player who began his career at Sporting CP and also starred for Manchester United and Juventus.

Ronaldo was handed the captain's armband, having already featured for a Riyadh All-Stars team – scoring twice – against Lionel Messi's Paris Saint-Germain this week.

A staple of the European game for the best part of two decades, seeing Cristiano Ronaldo make his Al Nassr bow in Saudi Arabia will undoubtedly be strange for many.

His move was completed in December following widespread reports linking him with a Saudi switch ever since he and Manchester United parted ways the previous month.

Ronaldo featured in a kind of Saudi all-star XI match against Paris Saint-Germain during the week but will make his official Al Nassr debut on Sunday to essentially bring the curtain down on one of the greatest careers in the history of European football.

While writing off Ronaldo is always unwise, a combination of the striker's age and the unsavoury nature of his second spell at United make a return to elite European football seem improbable.

Nevertheless, as a five-time Champions League winner and the top scorer in the history of European football's premier club competition, Ronaldo's legacy as one of the all-time greats is secure.

But with seven top-flight league titles and a plethora of other trophies to his name, Ronaldo's impact on the continental game went beyond his goals on the grandest club stage.

Ahead of Al Nassr's clash with Al Ittifaq, Stats Perform looks back on his seismic impact in European club football.

Ronaldo's Premier League emergence

Ronaldo's return to the Premier League may not have gone to plan – the 37-year-old only scored once in the competition this term before an explosive interview with Piers Morgan led to his Old Trafford exit.

However, the three-time Premier League winner certainly made his mark in England, scoring 103 goals in 236 top-flight games for United.

Having burst onto the scene as a tricky winger, Ronaldo recorded 37 assists in the competition for the Red Devils, who he also helped to their third European title in 2008.

He also claimed his first Ballon d'Or while in Manchester in 2008 after scoring 31 goals in their title-winning 2007-08 campaign – that single-season tally has only been bettered by three players in the competition's history.

Making history with Madrid in LaLiga

Given the way his United spell ended, it remains to be seen whether Ronaldo will be remembered as an Old Trafford legend or not. But there's no doubt about his legacy at Real Madrid, where he really made his name as one of football's greatest as he became Los Blancos' top scorer with 450 goals in all competitions.

Incredibly, the Portugal forward averaged over a goal per game throughout his trophy-laden spell in Spain, hitting the net 311 times in 292 appearances in LaLiga.

Ronaldo scored with 16 per cent of his shots for Madrid, a higher percentage than he managed in the Premier League, Serie A or the Champions League. 

Madrid may be famed for their Champions League accomplishments, but Ronaldo also helped them to two domestic title triumphs in 2011-12 and 2016-17, netting 46 times as Jose Mourinho's side earned 100 points in the first of those campaigns.

Serie A success with the Bianconeri

Given Juventus' failure to win the Champions League, few consider Ronaldo's time in Turin to be an unmitigated success. The raw numbers, however, suggest otherwise.

Managing 81 goals in 98 league appearances for a club in perpetual crisis – with a conversion rate of 15 per cent – tells the story of how Ronaldo evolved in Serie A, honing his game as the ultimate penalty-box forward in his advancing years.

Despite a tumultuous period that saw Maurizio Sarri replace Massimiliano Allegri, Juventus stretched their incredible run of Scudetto success to nine consecutive seasons.

That stint ended in Ronaldo's final full campaign at the Allianz Stadium, though he still finished as Serie A's top scorer with 29 goals. 

The Champions League master

For those who believe Ronaldo to be the greatest to have played the game, the Portugal forward's exploits in the Champions League are always the crucial factor.

Ronaldo's record of 140 goals in the competition is unmatched, though his great rival Lionel Messi (129) may have something to say about that if he declines to follow his fellow forward's lead in exiting Europe.

Averaging almost a goal contribution per game (180 in 183 appearances), Ronaldo won an astonishing 115 games in the Champions League, lifting the trophy five times – a joint-high tally.

As Madrid cemented their status as European masters by winning three consecutive titles between the 2015-16 and 2017-18 seasons, Ronaldo top-scored in the competition every season, consolidating his legacy as the ultimate big-game player.

Vincent Aboubakar is poised to join Besiktas for a third time after the January transfers of Cristiano Ronaldo and Wout Weghorst set up a Super Lig opportunity for the Cameroonian.

Al Nassr announced Aboubakar's exit, before Besiktas on Saturday confirmed they were in talks with the striker.

A pair of transfers involving Manchester United have paved the way for the deal.

Al Nassr pounced when United released Ronaldo in November, and the Premier League club then plumped for Weghorst as they sought a replacement, prising him away from his loan from Burnley to Besiktas.

With Besiktas seeking a player to take Weghorst's place, they struck on Aboubakar as the man for the job, knowing exactly what he will bring.

Now 30, Aboubakar spent a season on loan from Porto to Besiktas in 2016-17, and he joined the Istanbul giants again in September 2020 after leaving Portugal.

He left at the end of the 2020-21 season after Saudi club Al Nassr came in for him, but his Pro League stint has come to an end following Ronaldo's arrival.

Besiktas confirmed in a statement that they are in the process of signing Aboubakar.

"Negotiations have started with the player regarding the transfer of professional footballer Vincent Pate Aboubakar," Besiktas said.

Aboubakar captained Cameroon at the World Cup in Qatar. He was sent off after tearing off his shirt when celebrating his winning goal in a group game against Brazil, with the result not enough to carry the Indomitable Lions through to the knock-out stage.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice yet Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe helped Paris Saint-Germain defeat Riyadh All-Stars 5-4 in a thrilling friendly.

The exhibition at King Fahd International Stadium on Thursday saw 21 shots on target, nine goals, a red card for Juan Bernat and a penalty miss from Neymar.

Having had his debut for new club Al Nassr delayed due to a domestic ban carried over from his time at Manchester United, Ronaldo's first game since moving to Saudi Arabia came for a hybrid XI that also contained players from Al Hilal.

It set up a reunion with long-time rival and fellow multiple Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi in what was their first meeting on the pitch of any sort since Juventus beat Barcelona 3-0 in the Champions League group stage in 2020.

Messi came out on top in terms of scoreline in this 37th encounter between the pair, with PSG pulling away in a game that the hosts levelled on three occasions, but Ronaldo outscored the 2022 World Cup winner.

Neymar, Mbappe and Messi all combined for the latter to open the scoring inside the opening three minutes, but Ronaldo equalised from a penalty he himself won after being caught in the face by Keylor Navas.

PSG lost Bernat to a straight red card for his last-man challenge just inside the opposition half, though they were soon back in front through a close-range Marquinhos finish from Mbappe's assist.

Neymar missed the chance to extend PSG's lead when having a tame penalty saved, and that proved costly when Ronaldo glanced in a trademark header on the stroke of half-time.

PSG still could not shake off their opponents after Sergio Ramos' strike, teed up by Mbappe, was cancelled out by Jang Hyun-soo's header less than three minutes later.

Mbappe capped an impressive display with a goal of his own from the penalty spot on the hour mark. He was then subbed off, along with Messi, Neymar and Ronaldo.

The tempo of the game dropped from that point but the entertainment continued until full-time as Anderson Talisca pulled back a late goal after Hugo Ekitike had seemingly put PSG out of sight, though the Riyadh All-Stars could not equalise for a fifth time.

New Manchester United signing Wout Weghorst is adamant his willingness to press makes him a good fit for Erik ten Hag's style of play at Old Trafford.

The Netherlands international completed a loan move from Burnley on Friday after United secured his release from a temporary stay at Besiktas in Turkey.

Weghorst was in the stands the following day as United came from behind to beat Manchester City 2-1 at Old Trafford in the derby, with Bruno Fernandes scoring the equaliser before Marcus Rashford got the winner.

Victory moved Erik ten Hag's men to within a point of second-placed City, highlighting the remarkable improvement instigated at the club by the new manager, who is seemingly maximising the team's potential.

Nevertheless, they have often been stretched in terms of their attacking options, particularly since Cristiano Ronaldo's acrimonious November exit, and Weghorst emerged as a surprise target earlier this month.

While some supporters may not have been enthused about the arrival of a forward who only scored twice as Burnley were relegated last season, the fact he engaged in the fourth-most pressures (54.1) per 90 minutes in the league (minimum 1,000 minutes played) in 2021-22 saw him dubbed a "pressing monster" in the media.

He believes this approach aligns itself to that of his new manager, as he told United's official website: "I think [pressing] is something that's one of my strengths. Especially without the ball, to put pressure on an opponent [and] be active.

"That's something I am capable of and that's also something in the way the trainer [Ten Hag] wants to play.

"He wants to play aggressive; he wants to go high on the pitch, try to recover the ball there, as quickly as possible, and I think I can help the team with that."

Weghorst was considered a disappointment following his brief spell in the Premier League with Burnley, as his poor goals return did not match the expectations that came with his reputation.

The Clarets reportedly paid £12million (€14m) to Wolfsburg for the striker, but he averaged only one Premier League goal every 10 appearances and was loaned to Besiktas when Burnley dropped into the second tier.

He is desperate to prove a point upon his return to England.

"For me, it was not done, it was not finished," he continued. "It didn't work out the first time as I hoped and I'm really hungry to show myself, to help the team.

"Of course, we are on a really good track now. The last couple of weeks, months actually, it's going really positive [at United] and I just want to contribute and give my best and give my all for the club and try to be a part of the successful [direction] we are going."

In terms of the direction United are going, Weghorst has no doubt where he sees the destination being.

"Trophies. That's quite easy. Trophies, and that's also what the manager told me about, the expectations that are there.

"Also my role, that's also something I want to bring. Like I said, I'm just going to give everything I have for the club to be successful, to win the games and, of course, to win trophies.

"We are still active in four competitions, so four trophies to go, that's the only thing that's counting, and I think also that fits for a big a club as United is."

Cristiano Ronaldo must accept "he is not 25 years old" anymore and follow the examples of veterans Ryan Giggs, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paolo Maldini.

That was the message from Manchester United great Eric Cantona, who referenced the leading role Ibrahimovic has played at Milan despite his status diminishing to a squad role.

Ronaldo parted ways with United in an acrimonious exit after stating he felt "betrayed" by the club and had little respect for Red Devils head coach Erik ten Hag and former interim boss Ralf Rangnick.

The Portugal forward started just 10 of United's 21 matches prior to his departure, though Cantona suggested the 37-year-old should have handled the situation in a different manner.

Ibrahimovic played through injury as Milan ended an 11-year wait for the Scudetto last term, scoring eight goals in 23 Serie A games to support Stefano Pioli's regular starters Olivier Giroud and Rafael Leao.

Cantona told CalcioMercato: "There are two types of veterans: those who want to play every game because they still think they're 25 and those who realise they're not 25 and are here to help young players, they know they won't play every game, but they're aware that they'll have their moment.

"There are players who help new players: Ibrahimovic still does it with Milan, Ryan Giggs or Maldini himself when he was at Milan. 

"Cristiano Ronaldo doesn't realise he's not 25 years old. He's already older and doesn't know that, instead of being unhappy about not having played all the time, he should accept the situation."

Ronaldo could make his debut for Al Nassr against Ettifaq next Sunday after missing clashes with Al Tai and Al Shabab due to a two-match ban from the English Football Association.

Bruno Fernandes insists he was not taking a swipe at Cristiano Ronaldo when describing Manchester United as "a proper team" following the superstar forward's exit.

Portugal international Fernandes struck a controversial equaliser against Manchester City on Saturday before Marcus Rashford earned a 2-1 comeback victory for United at Old Trafford.

Erik ten Hag's side have now won nine matches in a row – seven of those since Ronaldo's high-profile exit in November – in what is their best league run since January 2017.

It has been quite the turnaround for United, who lost their opening two matches against Brentford and Brighton and Hove Albion but are now up in third place.

Speaking to BT Sport after United's latest win, Fernandes said: "We used to be individuals, now we are a team. You can see a proper team that works for each other."

Those comments were perceived as being a dig at international colleague Ronaldo, but Fernandes took to Instagram later on Saturday to clarify what he meant.

"I know it's difficult to see Manchester United doing well, [but I] don't have anything to [say] about us apart [from] good things," he posted. "Don't use my name to attack Cristiano.

"Cristiano was part of our team for half the season and as I said in many interviews, everyone since [the win against] Liverpool has been amazing and acting like a proper team."

Fernandes, who now has four goals and four assists in 26 games this season, added: "You can see the results. We carry on!"

Ronaldo joined Saudi Arabian side Al Nassr earlier this month after his United contract was terminated by mutual consent following an explosive interview with Piers Morgan.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner has yet to make his debut for his new club due to a two-match domestic ban carried over from his time with United.

Ten Hag's in-form side are back in Premier League action on Wednesday with a trip to Crystal Palace.

Cristiano Ronaldo will make his Al Nassr debut next Sunday, but he will do so without team-mate David Ospina, who fractured a bone in his elbow on Saturday.

Al Nassr are preparing for Ronaldo's Saudi Pro League bow at home to Ettifaq in their next match.

But they head into that January 22 game on the back of a goalless draw at Al Shabab.

Although the result maintained a three-point gap between league leaders Al Nassr and their third-placed hosts, it came at a cost.

Goalkeeper Ospina, who starred in Europe with Nice, Arsenal and Napoli, faces six weeks out, the team announced.

Ospina has been a key part of an Al Nassr defence that has conceded a league-low six goals this season. Only Al Shabab's Kim Seung-gyu can better his seven clean sheets.

Manchester United have secured the arrival of Netherlands striker Wout Weghorst on loan from Burnley until the end of the season.

Weghorst had been playing for Besiktas, but United have taken over that arrangement, with the Turkish club confirming they received €2.8million (£2.48m) for the inconvenience.

Erik ten Hag was in the market for a new striker following the acrimonious split with Cristiano Ronaldo, whose contract was terminated in November after he criticised the manager and club in a controversial interview.

The United boss was open about his desire to bring in attacking reinforcements and seemed to confirm the club's interest in Weghorst when acknowledging Anthony Martial could not handle the physical demands of being their only striker.

Links with Weghorst surprised many given the 30-year-old's lack of impact – he scored two goals in 20 top-flight games – with Burnley in the Premier League last season.

But he has netted eight goals in 16 Turkish Super Lig outings this term and scored twice for the Netherlands in a lively cameo against Argentina at the World Cup.

Weghorst's arrival is the continuation of a pattern in the transfer market for United, who have largely relied on signing either ageing or cheap centre-forwards for over a decade, with Romelu Lukaku – who lasted only two years at Old Trafford – arguably the only exception since acquiring Robin van Persie from Arsenal in 2012.

United confirmed the signing on their official website on Friday, though the former AZ player will not be eligible for Saturday's Premier League clash with Manchester City.

"I feel privileged to be joining Manchester United," Weghorst said. "I've played against the club in the past and it's a fantastic feeling to now have the chance to pull on the famous red shirt.

"I've seen United's progress under Erik ten Hag this season and can't wait to start playing my part in pushing the team towards its aims.

"Whatever happens in the next few months, I can promise to give everything to the club for as long as I am here.

"I thank everyone who has played a part in getting me to this stage, and now I am looking forward to meeting my new team-mates and getting involved straight away."

Cristiano Ronaldo paid old friends a visit on Friday, dropping in on Carlo Ancelotti and Real Madrid ahead of the Supercopa de Espana final in Riyadh.

It may have been rude of Madrid's record goalscorer not to show his face, given Los Blancos were training at the facilities of his new team, Al Nassr.

The 37-year-old was nevertheless warmly received as his former team were put through their paces, training in the build-up to Sunday's trophy game against Barcelona.

Ronaldo watched the session and met with Madrid's players, the club said, with the Portuguese perhaps hankering for a slice of the action.

He also chatted with fellow former Madrid star Roberto Carlos, with the Brazilian making an appearance at the session as well.

Ronaldo last featured in a Supercopa for Madrid in August 2017, scoring in a 3-1 first-leg win against Barcelona at Camp Nou before Madrid won the second game 2-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu to seal a 5-1 aggregate rout over their fiercest rivals.

Ronaldo has yet to make his competitive debut for Al Nassr, who face Al Shabab in the Saudi Pro League on Saturday.

He is expected to miss that game, having also sat out a fixture against Al Tai last week, due to a two-match ban handed down by the English Football Association after Ronaldo slapped a mobile phone out of a young Everton fan's hand at the end of Manchester United's defeat at Goodison Park last April.

Ronaldo has signed a two-and-a-half-year contract with Al Nassr, the deal seemingly ending his long and successful career in European club football.

He scored 451 goals in 438 games for Madrid in a staggering nine-year stint with Los Blancos, before moving on to Juventus in July 2018.

Arsenal's interest in Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Mykhaylo Mudryk is well known, having pursued him in the last transfer window.

The 22-year-old Ukraine winger has scored 10 goals in 18 appearances for Shakhtar this term, enhancing his value.

Mudryk has also had interest from Sevilla and Chelsea, with the Gunners having reportedly previously made two bids for his services.

TOP STORY - GUNNERS CLOSE IN ON AGREEMENT FOR MUDRYK DEAL

Arsenal have tabled a fresh third bid worth €70m (£62m) plus add-ons for key target Mykhaylo Mudryk of Shakhtar Donetsk, claims Fabrizio Romano.

Talks are ongoing with no breakthrough but the two parties are getting closer to agreement, while Mudryk posted a praying emoji on Instagram in a sign he wants to make the move.

The Daily Express claims that the two clubs have come to an agreement on the fee, with negotiations entering the "final stage".

 

ROUND-UP

- Al Hilal, rivals of Cristiano Ronaldo's new Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr, are plotting a €275m move for World Cup winner Lionel Messi from Paris Saint-Germain, reports Mundo Deportivo. The Sun has reported Messi's father Jorge has been spotted in Saudi Arabia too.

- Arsenal are also again interested in Juventus forward Dusan Vlahovic, reports La Repubblica. According to the report, the Serbian is valued at €110m (£97.7m).

- Sport claims that Newcastle United have tabled an offer for Barcelona's Dutch forward Memphis Depay.

- PSG are set to offer Milan Skriniar a €12m-a-year contract, provided he agrees to leave Inter on a free transfer, reports La Repubblica. Skriniar's Inter deal concludes at the end of this season.

- AS reports that PSG have accepted a bid for Wolves for 30-year-old Spanish midfielder Pablo Sarabia.

- Besiktas are turning to Wolves' forward Raul Jimenez to replace Manchester United-bound Wout Weghorst, according to Fotospor.

Cristiano Ronaldo's Al Nassr contract does not include any commitment to promote a 2030 World Cup bid, the Saudi Arabian club stated on Tuesday.

The Portugal forward joined Al Nassr on December 30 after his acrimonious departure from Manchester United, signing a two-and-a-half-year contract reportedly worth around €200million (£177m) per year.

Reports suggested Ronaldo's agreement included an additional bonus to act as an ambassador for Saudi Arabia's World Cup bid, with the Middle East aiming to host another tournament after Qatar 2022.

Al Nassr strongly denied claims Ronaldo had been offered a financial incentive to secure FIFA's top tournament, with Spain, Ukraine and his home country Portugal among the others to make a joint bid to host.

"Al Nassr FC would like to clarify that contrary to news reports, Cristiano Ronaldo's contract with Al Nassr does not entail commitments to any World Cup bids," a statement read.

"His main focus is on Al Nassr and to work with his team-mates to help the club achieve success."

Ronaldo is yet to make his debut for Al Nassr after missing Friday's clash with Al Tai as he served the first part of a two-match ban from the English Football Association.

Cristiano Ronaldo's move to join Al Nassr is proof of Saudi Arabia's ambition to improve as a football nation, says Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

Portugal superstar Ronaldo had his contract with Manchester United terminated by mutual consent shortly before his country's World Cup opener, leaving him free to make a lucrative move to the Saudi Pro League.

The transfer marks the end of an illustrious career for Ronaldo in Europe, where he lifted the Champions League on five occasions and won the Ballon D'Or on five occasions.

With Ronaldo having reportedly attracted the interest of clubs in Europe and MLS, Courtois believes the addition is a statement of intent from Saudi Arabian football.

"The transfer of Cristiano makes it clear that the country wants to improve in sports," Courtois told reporters.

"Cristiano choosing to come here is his decision, but it shows that Arabia wants to improve. They've brought him in to win the league."

Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti had a similar view of the deal, saying: "Cristiano has been a fantastic signing. We wish him well. He's a legend of our club, like [Gareth] Bale, who retired yesterday. They remain in the hearts of all Madridistas."

Madrid are in Saudi Arabia for the Supercopa de Espana, where they face Valencia in the semi-finals on Wednesday, and Ancelotti wants to use the competition as a benchmark for success in the remainder of the campaign.

"Titles are always important for this club. Last year gave us a lot of confidence for that season. Hopefully the same thing will happen this year," he added.

"We have to fight for all the titles. We have one very close to try to win it. The goal is the Super Cup, for now."

When Fernando Santos called time on his eight-year stint as Portugal head coach after their 2022 World Cup quarter-final elimination, few would have correctly predicted his replacement.

Roberto Martinez also left his national team role after the tournament in Qatar, with Belgium disappointingly falling at the group stage.

The former Everton and Wigan Athletic boss took the Red Devils to the World Cup semi-finals in 2018, before reaching the last eight of Euro 2020, being eliminated by the eventual winners in both.

Martinez finds himself in charge of A Selecao now after his appointment was confirmed on Monday, and there is plenty of work to be done.

Qualifiers for the 2024 European Championships get underway in March and with the talent at their disposal, Portugal must be fancied to be among the favourites for the tournament in Germany.

Stats Perform has taken a look at five things in Martinez's in-tray that he will need to consider if he is to find success with his new team.

Solve the Ronaldo conundrum

"Decisions have to be made on the pitch. I won't rush into decisions. I want to meet everyone, and from today I want to talk and meet all the players," Martinez said at his first press conference as Portugal coach.

"Cristiano [Ronaldo] is part of that list. He's had 19 years in the national team and deserves respect, let's talk. From there, it's up to me to make the best list for the European Championships."

Ronaldo has 118 goals in 196 caps for Portugal, undeniably an international record to be proud of, but he will be 38 years old when Martinez takes charge of his first game.

One of the new boss' biggest issues with Belgium was getting the best out of ageing stars, and with Portugal arguably looking far sharper when Ronaldo was benched in Qatar – hat-trick hero v Switzerland Goncalo Ramos in particular – perhaps now is the perfect time to allow the former Real Madrid and Juventus man to fully focus on his new adventure in Saudi Arabia and call time on his international career.

Getting the best out of Joao Felix

This is a problem Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone is all too familiar with, hence why Joao Felix is being linked with a loan move to the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal instead of lighting up LaLiga on a weekly basis.

The 23-year-old has plenty of talent, but a lack of consistency belies the nine-figure fee Atletico paid Benfica for him back in 2019.

If Martinez chooses to move on from Ronaldo though, Joao Felix could find the space and responsibility to thrive at international level as part of a team where everyone would be expected to chip in.

Of players to have featured in at least 14 LaLiga games this season, only Mikel Merino, Antoine Griezmann, Ansu Fati and Ousmane Dembele average more than Joao Felix's 0.42 assists per 90.

Utilise Dias to build solid foundation

Arguably Martinez's main struggle by the end of his time with Belgium was managing a defence filled with players who were several years past their prime.

He will need to make sure that Portugal maintain freshness there as a good defence will always give you a chance in international competitions, such as when Portugal conceded just once in four knockout games on their way to winning Euro 2016.

One key decision could be taken out of his hands, with Pepe expected to announce his retirement from international football, but in Ruben Dias, Martinez has the perfect figure to build his defence around.

The Manchester City centre-back is one of the best in Europe and has shown under Pep Guardiola he can also be relied upon in a backline that pushes high to close space and allow the attack to press from the front, something Martinez has often favoured when he has had the tools to do so.

Build around Bruno

Since his move to Man Utd in January 2020, Bruno Fernandes has proven himself to be one of the premier midfielders in Europe, and at the World Cup, he began to show that he can lead for his national team as well.

Only Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi (both 10) had more goal involvements than Fernandes' five (two goals, three assists) in Qatar, while no-one produced more than his three assists.

In the Premier League this season, only Kevin De Bruyne (41) has created more chances from open play than his 40, with the Manchester City man having played a game more, and with plenty of attacking firepower to aim for with Portugal, Fernandes can in theory fill his assist boots over the coming years under Martinez.

Make the most of Leao

One of those talents Fernandes should be working with is Rafael Leao, one of the most exciting attackers in Europe right now.

While Santos had plenty of other fine players to choose from, it was surprising to see Leao reduced to just substitute appearances in all five games at the World Cup, though he still produced two goals before Portugal were eventually eliminated by Morocco in the quarter-finals.

The Milan forward should really be Martinez's primary weapon on the left of the attack, especially if he can replicate the form that saw him win Serie A's player of the season award as the Rossoneri claimed the Scudetto in 2021-22.

Cristiano Ronaldo will still have the chance to represent Portugal after new head coach Roberto Martinez left the door open for him to compete for the national side.

A move to Al Nassr for Ronaldo after the World Cup came after a turbulent period for the 37-year-old saw him released by Manchester United and then dropped by Fernando Santos during Portugal's campaign in Qatar.

Now in Saudi Arabia, it has not been clear whether the 196-cap forward's time on the international stage would end at the start of a new era under Martinez.

However, speaking at his unveiling on Monday, the former Belgium boss confirmed he will talk to Ronaldo, and other players, before making decisions on the squad.

"Decisions have to be made on the pitch. I won't rush into decisions. I want to meet everyone, and from today I want to talk and meet all the players," he said at a press conference.

"Cristiano is part of that list. He's had 19 years in the national team and deserves respect, let's talk. From there, it's up to me to make the best list for the European Championships.

"Tomorrow we will start working to meet all the players, and Cristiano is one of them.

"We will start a football process to try to get to know all the players who will be able to join this team. We will give a chance to all players and respect all who are already in the team.

"I'm delighted to have them by my side. It's a process that we have to face naturally, responsibly, and we're going to make important decisions for the team."

Portugal begin their qualification campaign for Euro 2024 in March against Liechtenstein and Luxembourg.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.