When Fernando Santos interrupted his eight-year tenure as Portugal’s head coach after being knocked out of the quarter-finals of the 2022 World Cup, few would have correctly predicted his successor.
Roberto Martinez also stepped down from the national team following the tournament in Qatar, where Belgium were unfortunately knocked out in the group stage.
The former Everton and Wigan Athletic boss led the Red Devils to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup before reaching the last eight of Euro 2020 where he was eliminated by the eventual winners of both.
Martinez is now the head of the A Selecao after his appointment was confirmed on Monday, and there is a lot of work to be done.
Qualifying for the 2024 European Championships will start in March and with talent at their disposal, Portugal must be considered one of the favorites for the tournament in Germany.
Stats Perform looked at five things Martinez will need to consider if he wants to be successful with his new team.
Solve the riddle of Ronaldo
“Decisions have to be made on the pitch. I will not 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.
“Cristiana [Ronaldo] is part of this list. He was 19 years old in the national team and he deserves respect, let’s talk. From there it’s up to me to create the best roster for the European Championships.”
Ronaldo has scored 118 goals in 196 appearances for Portugal, which is undoubtedly an international record to be proud of, but he will be 38 when Martinez takes charge of his first game.
One of Belgium’s new boss’ biggest problems has been getting the best out of aging stars, and Portugal probably looked much sharper when Ronaldo was on the bench in Qatar – notably the hero of his hat-trick against Switzerland Goncalo Ramos – perhaps now is perfect moment for the former Real Madrid and Juventus player to fully concentrate on his new adventure in Saudi Arabia and devote time to his international career.
Getting the best out of Joao Felix
It’s a problem Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone is all too familiar with, which is why Joao Felix is being linked with a loan transfer to Manchester United and Arsenal rather than lighting up LaLiga on a weekly basis.
The 23-year-old has plenty of talent but his lack of consistency belies the nine-figure fee Atletico paid to Benfica in 2019.
However, if Martinez decides to move away from Ronaldo, Joao Felix can find the space and responsibility to develop at an international level as part of a team where everyone should contribute.
Of the players who have appeared in at least 14 LaLiga games this season, only Mikel Merino, Antoine Griezmann, Ansu Fati and Ousmane Dembele average more than Joao Felix with 0.42 assists per 90.
Use Dias to build a solid foundation
Arguably, Martinez’s main struggle towards the end of his time in Belgium was managing a defense filled with players who were several years past their prime.
He will need to ensure Portugal stays fresh there as a good defense always gives a chance in international competition, such as when Portugal only lost once in four cup games en route to winning Euro 2016.
One key decision could have been taken out of his hands and Pepe was about to announce his retirement from international football, but in Ruben Dias, Martinez has the perfect figure to build his defense around.
Manchester City’s centre-back is one of the best in Europe and has shown under Pep Guardiola that he can also be relied on in a defense that attacks high up to close the space and allow the attack to attack from the front, something Martinez often favored when faced with this tool.
Build around Bruno
Since moving to Man Utd in January 2020, Bruno Fernandes has proven himself to be one of the best midfielders in Europe, and at the World Cup he began to show that he can lead his national team as well.
Only Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi (both 10) had more goals than Fernandes (two goals, three assists) in Qatar, while neither had more than three assists.
In the Premier League this season, only Kevin De Bruyne (41) has created more open play chances than his 40, with the Manchester City player having played more, and with plenty of attacking firepower against Portugal, Fernandes could theoretically fill his assist boots for the upcoming season. years under Martinez.
Make the most of Leao
One of those talents that Fernandes should be working with is Rafael Leao, one of the most exciting strikers in Europe right now.
While Santos had plenty of other great players to choose from, it was surprising that Leao was limited to just substitute appearances in all five World Cup matches, although he still scored twice before Portugal were finally knocked out by Morocco in the quarter-finals. .
The Milan forward should really be Martinez’s main weapon on the left-back, especially if he manages to replicate the form that saw him win the Serie A Player of the Season award when the Rossoneri won the Scudetto in 2021-22.