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.

Portugal have appointed Roberto Martinez as their new head coach.

Fernando Santos called time on his eight-year stint at the helm last month, a decision which followed Portugal's surprise World Cup defeat to Morocco.

Santos led Portugal to the quarter-finals in Qatar, where he benched Cristiano Ronaldo for the Selecao's two knockout games – a comprehensive 6-1 win over Switzerland and the 1-0 loss to the Atlas Lions.

Martinez, who was presented as Portugal's new coach on Monday and has reportedly signed a four-year deal, became a free agent shortly before Santos' exit, leaving his role as Belgium coach after the Red Devils slumped to a dismal group-stage exit in Qatar.

Former Wigan Athletic and Everton boss Martinez led Belgium to their best World Cup campaign when they clinched third place at Russia 2018, though his failure to deliver silverware with a crop of players said to be the country's "golden generation" has attracted criticism.

Martinez oversaw 61 games during his six-year spell in charge of Belgium, winning 47 (77 per cent).

Belgium beat Canada in their opening match in Qatar but a defeat to Morocco and draw with Croatia saw them slump eliminated from a World Cup group for the first time since 1998.

They entered the World Cup second in FIFA's world rankings, but dropped to fourth after their failure to reach the knockout round.

Upon taking the job, one of Martinez's foremost challenges will be to make a decision on the international future of Ronaldo, who has joined Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia following the termination of his contract with Manchester United.

Though Ronaldo recognised his "most ambitious dream" was over after failing to inspire Portugal to glory at his fifth World Cup, the 37-year-old is yet to retire from international football.

Portugal will begin their qualification campaign for Euro 2024 at home to Liechtenstein on March 23, having been drawn into a group also containing Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Slovakia and Luxembourg.

Portugal have appointed Roberto Martinez as their new head coach.

Fernando Santos called time on his eight-year stint at the helm last month, a decision which followed Portugal's surprise World Cup defeat to Morocco.

Santos led Portugal to the quarter-finals in Qatar, where he benched Cristiano Ronaldo for the Selecao's two knockout games – a comprehensive 6-1 win over Switzerland and the 1-0 loss to the Atlas Lions.

Martinez, who was presented as Portugal's new coach on Monday and has reportedly signed a four-year deal, became a free agent shortly before Santos' exit, leaving his role as Belgium coach after the Red Devils slumped to a dismal group-stage exit in Qatar.

Former Wigan Athletic and Everton boss Martinez led Belgium to their best World Cup campaign when they clinched third place at Russia 2018, though his failure to deliver silverware with a crop of players said to be the country's "golden generation" has attracted criticism.

Martinez oversaw 61 games during his six-year spell in charge of Belgium, winning 47 (77 per cent).

Belgium beat Canada in their opening match in Qatar but a defeat to Morocco and draw with Croatia saw them slump eliminated from a World Cup group for the first time since 1998.

They entered the World Cup second in FIFA's world rankings, but dropped to fourth after their failure to reach the knockout round.

Upon taking the job, one of Martinez's foremost challenges will be to make a decision on the international future of Ronaldo, who has joined Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia following the termination of his contract with Manchester United.

Though Ronaldo recognised his "most ambitious dream" was over after failing to inspire Portugal to glory at his fifth World Cup, the 37-year-old is yet to retire from international football.

Portugal will begin their qualification campaign for Euro 2024 at home to Liechtenstein on March 23, having been drawn into a group also containing Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Slovakia and Luxembourg.

Chelsea's struggles and riches mean they are going to be busy during the January transfer window.

The Blues, who face Manchester City in the FA Cup on Sunday, are currently 10th in the Premier League as they continue to adjust to head coach Graham Potter.

Chelsea have already signed Benoit Badiashile, David Datro Fofana and Andrey Santos this month, while also being heavily linked with Benfica midfielder Enzo Fernandez, but they may have another World Cup finalist in their sights.

TOP STORY – CHELSEA KEEN ON THURAM IN JANUARY

Chelsea have commenced discussions with Bundesliga side Borussia Monchengladbach about a move for French forward Marcus Thuram, reports Fabrizio Romano.

Thuram's Gladbach contract expires at the end of this season and he is not planning on extending the deal.

Chelsea and Gladbach will hold further talks in the coming days to discuss conditions and a price tag for the 25-year-old in January.


ROUND-UP

– Negotiations between Atletico Madrid and Manchester United on a Joao Felix loan deal are ramping up, with the Spanish club demanding a £9.5million (€10.8m) loan fee and a commitment to buy for £70m (€79.4m), according to the Sunday Mirror.

– FootMercato claims Manchester United are exploring a deal to sign Wout Weghorst on loan. The 30-year-old Dutch striker is currently on loan at Besiktas from Burnley, with an £8.8m (€10m) buy option in the deal.

Tottenham are interested in signing Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford as a long-term replacement for veteran Hugo Lloris, claims the Sunday Mirror.

Napoli have made an opening bid worth €15m plus add-ons for Azzedine Ounahi from French club Angers, claims 90min. Ounahi impressed with Morocco at the World Cup and has also been linked with Leicester City .

– The Sun reports that Crystal Palace will rival Everton in pursuit of Aston Villa striker Danny Ings in January.

Arsenal are monitoring Tammy Abraham's situation at Roma, claims La Repubblica.

– The Athletic reports that ex-Everton and Belgium boss Roberto Martinez has a verbal agreement to take over as Portugal head coach.

Roma director Tiago Pinto is confident Jose Mourinho will remain as head coach of the Serie A club, despite being strongly linked with the vacant Portugal job.

Portugal are on the lookout for a new boss following the departure of Fernando Santos after last month's disappointing defeat to Morocco in the World Cup quarter-finals.

Mourinho is one of a number of names reportedly in the frame, while the 59-year-old has also been touted as a possible target for Brazil after Tite stepped aside.

However, Pinto expects the Portuguese to stay at Stadio Olimpico, where he is under contract until the end of the 2023-24 season.

"When you get a coach like Mourinho, you must be accustomed to rumours," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. 

"This was the first time in 18 months that a club or a federation were interested in him. We had no distractions at our training camp in the Algarve, we were only focused on work. 

"I am Portuguese and every time we change coach, Mourinho is mentioned, but we count on him for the future."

Mourinho led Roma to the inaugural Europa Conference League title last season – the Italian side's first European trophy in more than 60 years.

That was Mourinho's fifth continental triumph, having won both the UEFA Cup/Europa League and Champions League on two occasions.

Roma are struggling down in seventh in Serie A ahead of their return to action against Bologna on Wednesday, though, after winning just one of their past five matches.

Mourinho and Roma have also recently come in for criticism from footballers' trade union FIFPRO over its "mobbing campaign" of defender Rick Karsdorp.

The defender was labelled a "traitor" by Mourinho after November's 1-1 draw with Sassuolo, albeit without specifically naming the player, for supposed unprofessional behaviour.

But Pinto has sided with Mourinho and confirmed Karsdorp is up for sale in the January transfer window.

"After Sassuolo and Mourinho's words, the player committed serious professional misconduct by not showing up for training and travelling to Japan with the squad," Pinto said.

"We avoided controversy by working internally with the player's entourage. Ricky is back, he has trained and played.

"FIFPRO made a statement without even talking to Roma. Karsdorp has never been frozen out of the team, despite not showing up twice.

"These things happen in football, but many have forgotten about the best version of Karsdorp, who has started 60 games in 18 months under Mourinho. 

"We accept criticism, but I can't accept that a player makes the most of the situation to affect Roma.

"He is on the market, but he will never leave for free. If he goes, we must find a way to keep the team balanced, but not necessarily by signing a new full-back."

Cristiano Ronaldo has completed a transfer to Al Nassr.

Ronaldo was strongly linked with a move to the Saudi Pro League side after his second spell at Manchester United ended in acrimonious fashion in late November.

After falling down the pecking order at United, Ronaldo – who only scored one Premier League goal this season – told Piers Morgan he had no respect for head coach Erik ten Hag in a controversial interview.

That comment, as well as Ronaldo's declaration that United had "betrayed" him, led the Red Devils to terminate his contact shortly after the start of the World Cup in Qatar.

Al Nassr emerged as frontrunners and on Friday the 37-year-old's transfer was officially confirmed. Reports have suggested Ronaldo has signed a two-and-a-half-year deal and will earn £62million (€69.9m) per season.

"History in the making," Al Nassr tweeted.

"This is a signing that will not only inspire our club to achieve even greater success but inspire our league, our nation and future generations, boys and girls to be the best version of themselves. Welcome @Cristiano to your new home @AlNassrFC."

Ronaldo's move is seen as effectively bringing down the curtain on one of the greatest careers in the history of elite European Football.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner has lifted the Champions League trophy on five occasions – four times with Real Madrid and once with United, while his tally of 140 goals is the highest recorded in Europe's premier club competition.

Ronaldo is also Madrid's all-time top scorer with 450 goals, while he became the highest-scoring player in the history of men's international football last year – he now has 118 senior goals for Portugal.

 

However, he has fallen short of those incredible standards in recent months, with a group-stage penalty against Ghana representing his only goal at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, though that did make him the first man to net at five different editions of FIFA's flagship tournament.

Having been relegated to the role of substitute for Portugal's last two games, Ronaldo maintained his unwanted record of never scoring in a knockout fixture at the World Cup before watching his great rival Lionel Messi lead Argentina to their third title.

Al Nassr are coached by former Lyon boss Rudi Garcia and count Cameroon forward Vincent Aboubakar and ex-Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina among their squad.

The Riyadh-based side have won Saudi Arabia's top flight on nine occasions – a tally only bettered by Al Hilal, who have 18 titles to their name.

Cristiano Ronaldo has completed a transfer to Al Nassr.

Ronaldo was strongly linked with a move to the Saudi Pro League side after his second spell at Manchester United ended in acrimonious fashion in late November.

After falling down the pecking order at United, Ronaldo – who only scored one Premier League goal this season – told Piers Morgan he had no respect for head coach Erik ten Hag in a controversial interview.

That comment, as well as Ronaldo's declaration that United had "betrayed" him, led the Red Devils to terminate his contact shortly after the start of the World Cup in Qatar.

Al Nassr emerged as frontrunners and on Friday the 37-year-old's transfer was officially confirmed. Reports have suggested Ronaldo has signed a two-and-a-half-year deal and will earn £62million (€69.9m) per season.

"History in the making," Al Nassr tweeted.

"This is a signing that will not only inspire our club to achieve even greater success but inspire our league, our nation and future generations, boys and girls to be the best version of themselves. Welcome @Cristiano to your new home @AlNassrFC."

Ronaldo's move is seen as effectively bringing down the curtain on one of the greatest careers in the history of elite European Football.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner has lifted the Champions League trophy on five occasions – four times with Real Madrid and once with United, while his tally of 140 goals is the highest recorded in Europe's premier club competition.

Ronaldo is also Madrid's all-time top scorer with 450 goals, while he became the highest-scoring player in the history of men's international football last year – he now has 118 senior goals for Portugal.

 

However, he has fallen short of those incredible standards in recent months, with a group-stage penalty against Ghana representing his only goal at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, though that did make him the first man to net at five different editions of FIFA's flagship tournament.

Having been relegated to the role of substitute for Portugal's last two games, Ronaldo maintained his unwanted record of never scoring in a knockout fixture at the World Cup before watching his great rival Lionel Messi lead Argentina to their third title.

Al Nassr are coached by former Lyon boss Rudi Garcia and count Cameroon forward Vincent Aboubakar and ex-Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina among their squad.

The Riyadh-based side have won Saudi Arabia's top flight on nine occasions – a tally only bettered by Al Hilal, who have 18 titles to their name.

Cristiano Ronaldo is reportedly set to complete his move to Al Nassr.

The Portugal forward saw his second stint at Manchester United brought to an early conclusion last month following an inflammatory interview with Piers Morgan, in which he revealed his unhappiness with the Red Devils and their manager Erik ten Hag.

Ronaldo has been a free agent since United terminated his deal shortly after the start of the World Cup, at which he scored one goal and was reduced to the role of substitute for Portugal's two knockout games.

Having revealed he rejected a move to the Saudi Pro League ahead of this season, Ronaldo had been strongly linked with Al Nassr since leaving Old Trafford.

While Ronaldo denied a deal had been agreed earlier this month, Al Nassr sporting director Marcelo Salazar said the club would remain patient in their attempts to take him to Riyadh – and that approach looks to have paid off.

On Friday, widespread reports suggested Ronaldo had agreed a two-and-a-half-year deal with Al Nassr, where it is suggested he will earn £62million (€69.9m) per season.

Those reports also claimed Ronaldo had already undergone one part of his medical.

Ronaldo's move will bring the curtain down on his remarkable stint at the top of the European game.

Ronaldo could potentially be available to make his Al Nassr debut on Thursday, when Rudi Garcia's side host Al Ta'ee.

Al Nassr are second in the Saudi Pro League after losing just one of their first 10 games this season.

There is perhaps no sporting debate that captures the imagination like that concerning the identity of football's greatest ever player.

The incredible goalscoring feats of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo put them at the centre of the discussion, but what about the greats of yesteryear? 

Does the cunning of Diego Maradona or the ingenuity of Johan Cruyff make one of them the best to have played the world's most popular sport?

The ultimate reference for all those iconic players, however, is Pele. The only player to have won three World Cups, the ultimate personification of "o jogo bonito".

With tributes flooding in after the Brazil icon passed away at the age of 82, Stats Perform delves into the Selecao star's incredible career, asking how it compares to those of the game's other greats.

Pele: The World Cup's finest

While any debate over the greatest player of all time will always be subjective, nobody can deny Pele his status as the ultimate World Cup legend.

His introduction to the global stage came at the 1958 tournament in Sweden, where Brazil exercised the demons of 1950 – when they lost the final on home soil to Uruguay in what became known as the "Maracanazo" – to clinch their first title.

A 17-year-old Pele missed Brazil's first two games at the tournament, but the Santos youngster quickly made the Selecao's number 10 shirt his own after coming in for a 2-0 win over the Soviet Union.

From there, he went from strength to strength, scoring his first World Cup goal against Wales before helping himself to a hat-trick against France in the semi-finals.

As Brazil overcame the hosts 5-2 in a thrilling final, Pele – at the age of 17 years and 249 days – scored twice. Only one other teenager has ever netted in a World Cup final – Kylian Mbappe in 2018.

 

As if one outstanding World Cup campaign was not enough, Pele was key to further Selecao triumphs in 1962 and 1970 – assuming a talismanic role in what many consider to be the greatest international team in history at the latter tournament.

Pele's tally of six assists in Mexico remains the highest tally recorded at a single World Cup since records began four years earlier, and his nonchalant lay-off for Carlos Alberto to finish off a flowing team move in Brazil's final win over Italy remains one of the most iconic moments in the tournament's history.

While modern-day detractors may point to Pele's failure to test himself in Europe, his incredible record on the grandest stage of all dictates that he is remembered among the very best, and there can be no doubt as to his unmatched World Cup legacy.

Johan Cruyff: The innovator

If Pele's legacy can be measured in World Cup accomplishments, Cruyff's must be examined in a very different way.

Cruyff's unbelievable tally of 36 chances created at the 1974 World Cup may be a single-tournament record, but it was not enough for the Netherlands to avoid the first of their three final defeats at the competition.

Eight Eredivisie titles, three European Cups and one LaLiga triumph as a player does not exactly do justice to the career of football's great innovator, the man considered responsible for "total football" and by extension, every free-flowing Barcelona or Ajax team that has followed.

If Pele's is best remembered as the World Cup's greatest player, perhaps Cruyff deserves the title of football's finest pioneer.

Diego Maradona: The individualist 

No conversation about football's greatest could be complete without a mention of Maradona, the man who almost single-handedly carried Argentina to football's greatest prize with a perfect blend of skill and cunning.

Astonishingly, Maradona claimed five goals and five assists as Argentina won the 1986 World Cup – a feat no other player has accomplished since detailed data collection began in 1966.

Maradona's quarter-final brace against England, perhaps the most iconic double in history, encapsulated his on-pitch personality perfectly – a mischievous first goal being followed by a truly remarkable second.

Maradona's tendency to carry unfancied sides to success was replicated on the club stage, with his two Serie A triumphs with Napoli earning him a level of adulation that will perhaps never be matched.

A beaten finalist in 1990, not even El Diego could match Pele's World Cup exploits, but the Argentine carved out a reputation as football's finest individualist. 

 

Cristiano Ronaldo: The big-game player

Like Cruyff, neither of the final two players on our list have made their greatest impact at the World Cup, but the incredible goalscoring feats of Ronaldo ensure his place among the game's legends.

In the Champions League – arguably the true pinnacle of the modern game – no player can match Ronaldo's total of 140 goals.

Ronaldo – who scored his 700th goal in club football earlier this season – has also lifted the Champions League trophy on five occasions – a tally no other player has bettered.

The 37-year-old started off the 2022 World Cup by becoming the first male player to net in five different editions of the tournament, though he ultimately ended it in disappointment, making just 10 touches after coming on as a substitute in Portugal's quarter-final defeat to Morocco.

He has been the ultimate big-game player. Whether he is anymore is clearly up for debate. 

Lionel Messi: The Magician 

While some may prefer the efficiency and athleticism of Ronaldo, there is no sight in modern football as joyous as that of Messi slaloming through panicked defences.

Seven Ballon d'Or wins tells you all you need to know, Messi's army of fans may say, while Pep Guardiola's revolutionary Barcelona side – considered by many as the best team to ever take to the field – was built to accommodate the Argentine's incredible mix of elite finishing, dribbling and passing skills. 

 

Until the last two years, the only major blot on Messi's career was a perceived failure to replicate the feats of Maradona, with the expectations of the Argentinian public often seeming to weigh heavily upon the shoulders of the diminutive attacker.

However, having helped the Albiceleste end a 28-year wait to win the Copa America in 2021, Messi then contributed seven goals and three assists to mirror Maradona's achievement of leading Argentina to World Cup glory, with the Paris Saint-Germain forward's campaign in Qatar already regarded as one of the greatest in the tournament's rich history.

While the sight of Messi lifting the World Cup trophy at the Lusail Stadium caused some to declare any debate regarding football's greatest player to be over, the forward's age dictates he will not get the chance to equal Pele's feats on the game's grandest stage.

Everyone has a different opinion on what makes a player the greatest in history, be it their style, their goal record, or their impact on subsequent generations.

The role of football's greatest tournament will always be pivotal, however, and on that basis, Pele will always have a place among the legends of the game.

Joao Felix has a role to play at Atletico Madrid despite his "differences" with the club, says Diego Simeone, who expects the forward to give his maximum while he remains with Los Colchoneros.

The Portugal international has been linked with a move away from the Metropolitano after appearing to criticise Simeone's methods while at the World Cup earlier this month.

Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal have all been linked with a move for the 23-year-old, whose tally of 33 Atleti goals since his 2019 arrival is only bettered by Luis Suarez (34) in that span. 

While Simeone hinted Joao Felix's exit was in the offing when he warned "no one is essential" last week, the Argentine says the forward must continue to contribute until any move is agreed. 

"We have a good working relationship, beyond some differences that there may be between people. We can't agree on everything," Simeone said at a press conference on Wednesday.

"We have differences, but I always look for the best for the club until the last day that I or the players are there. 

"We squeeze the maximum out of everyone until the last day that I or they are here." 

Joao Felix scored one goal and added two assists as Portugal reached the last eight in Qatar, with his total of three World Cup goal involvements only bettered by two Selecao team-mates – Bruno Fernandes with five and Goncalo Ramos with four.

Simeone called for the forward to replicate that form ahead of Atleti's return to league action against Elche, adding: "What matters to me is the team, and he is important to the team. 

"If he shows us what we saw in the World Cup, he will be very important. He has the conditions and the talent, and the team needs his qualities."

Tammy Abraham is unsurprised by reports suggesting both Portugal and Brazil are interested in Roma coach Jose Mourinho, who he views as an "uncle" figure.

Mourinho led Roma to the inaugural Europa Conference League title last season, his fifth major continental triumph after winning both the UEFA Cup/Europa League and Champions League on two occasions.

However, the Giallorossi boss has been linked with an exit in the aftermath of the World Cup, with both Portugal and Brazil searching for a new coach following quarter-final exits in Qatar.

Speaking to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Roma striker Abraham said any side would be fortunate to have Mourinho, crediting the 59-year-old's methods for his own development. 

"Jose is a great coach, everyone wants him," Abraham said. "It's also an honour that an important national team like Portugal is looking for him, but I'm sure the coach is focused on the team. 

"We've read the news on social media, but we haven't discussed it. We're all focused on Roma.

"He's a point of reference, I consider him to be like my uncle in Rome. He wants the best for me, when I don't express myself at my best, he pushes me. 

"Even when I play well, he's never satisfied and that's what I need. I'm not the type for pats on the back, but I need that trust he shows in me every day."

Jose Mourinho is a man in demand at international level, with Brazil reportedly rivalling Portugal in pursuit of his signature.

The 59-year-old is currently employed by Serie A club Roma, having joined in 2021 on a three-year contract.

There are reports that Mourinho is not entirely happy in the Italian capital, specifically regarding player attitudes and the club's financial limitations.

TOP STORY – BRAZIL TO MAKE SHOCK MOVE FOR MOURINHO

Brazil will make a sensational swoop to make Jose Mourinho their new national team boss to replace the departed Tite, according to la Repubblica.

An intermediary of Brazil's national setup will fly into Italy to meet up with the Roma head coach – who has also been linked to the Portugal job – and begin negotiations face to face.

Brazil had been linked with Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, having reportedly turned to super agent Jorge Mendes to aid their pursuit of a new head coach.

 

ROUND-UP

– Journalist Bruno Andrade claims Manchester United have "overtaken" Liverpool in the race to sign World Cup winner Enzo Fernandez from Benfica. United boss Erik ten Hag is willing the trigger his €120m release clause.

Manchester United have commenced talks with PSV winger Cody Gakpo, reports The Daily Mirror. Gakpo netted three goals in three World Cup group games.

– Fabrizio Romano claims that Barcelona have no intention of selling midfielder Franck Kessie or full-back Hector Bellerin in January.

Paris Saint-Germain are interested in Real Madrid winger Marco Asensio, reports SPORT. Arsenal have also been linked with the 26-year-old, while Ara claims Barcelona are monitoring the situation and may swoop.

PSG are also interested in signing Manchester United's Brazilian midfielder Fred, claims The Sun. That is despite United recently triggering a 12-month extension on Fred's contract.

Bayern Munich have added Leeds United's French goalkeeper Ilhan Meslier to their transfer targets, reports MediaFootMercato. Bayern are looking for cover the injured keeper Manuel Neuer.

Stephan El Shaarawy says Jose Mourinho remains fully committed to Roma despite reports he could replace Fernando Santos as Portugal head coach.

Mourinho is contracted to Roma – who he led to the inaugural Europa Conference League triumph last season – until 2024, but the former Chelsea and Real Madrid boss has been linked with an exit.

Portugal parted company with the long-serving Santos after suffering a shock World Cup quarter-final defeat to Morocco and Mourinho has been linked with the role.

It has since been claimed that Mourinho wants guarantees of substantial investment before deciding whether to remain in the Italian capital beyond this season, but winger El Shaarawy expects him to stay. 

"We have never talked to him about this possibility [of Mourinho leaving]. We think the coach is very focused on Roma, on the goals we have, on doing well here as we all are, as always," the winger told Il Messaggero.

"He is always present in every situation. Even in the way he talks to us in the locker room, in the match, in giving us the right indications. 

"We see him serene, he is a person of the heart, instinctive, so the important thing for him now, I think, is Roma. We all hope he can stay here for a long time."

Roma sit seventh in Serie A, three points adrift of a top-four place ahead of the resumption of the season on January 4.

Cristiano Ronaldo is "a big failure of the World Cup" and has "damaged his legacy", former Germany international Lothar Matthaus claims.

Ronaldo has endured a turbulent six weeks at club and international level, having been released from Manchester United prior to the start of the tournament in Qatar following an explosive interview with Piers Morgan.

After scoring in the opening game against Ghana, Ronaldo appeared furious when withdrawn during the final group-stage match against South Korea and was subsequently dropped to the bench for the following two matches in the knockout stage.

He would not be missed against Switzerland, Goncalo Ramos scoring a hat-trick as his replacement, then Ronaldo came off the bench in a fruitless effort to stave off defeat to Morocco.

With 37-year-old Ronaldo now on the hunt for a new club, German World Cup great Matthaus has conceded he is unsure who will make a move for his services, delivering a damning assessment of the five-time Ballon D'Or winner.

"With his ego trips, Ronaldo has damaged the team and himself," Matthaus told newspaper Bild.

"There is no doubt that he was a great player and an absolutely lethal finisher. But now he has damaged his legacy.

"I find it hard to think that he can find a place in a team. I kind of feel sorry for Ronaldo.

While Ronaldo and Portugal suffered a quarter-final exit, the fortunes of Lionel Messi and Argentina were vastly different – as they celebrated glory after a dramatic penalty shoot-out triumph against France in Sunday's final.

That affirmed Messi as the "player of the millennium" in the eyes of 1990 World Cup winner Matthaus, who had a further jibe for Ronaldo.

"Ronaldo is of course a big failure of the World Cup, the opposite of Messi," he said.

"[Messi is] the absolute winner. He deserves it because he has given me and all football fans great joy with his qualities and the way he plays over 17-18 years.

"For me, Messi is the player of the millennium."

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