Portugal are facing a tough question as they head home from Euro 24: do they still need Cristiano Ronaldo?

Friday’s 5-3 loss to France on penalties in their quarter-final after a goalless stalemate summed up Portugal’s disappointing campaign, a festival of missed chances in which Ronaldo failed to score apart from in shootouts.

Now 39, Ronaldo lacked his trademark speed, explosion and agility, wasting chance after chance as his team mates obediently passed the ball to him, disrupting Portugal’s tempo and slowing them down.

Portugal’s future over the last few years has looked bright as they have a strong generation of talent, including outstanding players in their prime such as Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva, Rafael Leao and Vitinha.

Former manager Fernando Santos tried to move on from the ageing Ronaldo, relegating the once talismanic player to the bench during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar after he failed to make an impact.

But after their shocking defeat to surprise package Morocco in the quarter-finals ended with Ronaldo running to the tunnel in tears, Portugal decided to part ways with their long-time coach and stick with the five-times Ballon d’Or winner.

Newcomer Roberto Martinez trusted Ronaldo with the captaincy and a leadership role and, instead of building a team around his rising stars, he deployed them as a supporting cast around Ronaldo so the forward could get another shot at glory in Euro 2024.

Instead, it was another tale of hope turned to disappointment and under-achievement on the biggest stage for Ronaldo.

Despite his more than two decades of an outstanding career, breaking numerous records and playing for some of the biggest clubs in the world, the enduring image of Ronaldo over the last three weeks in Germany will be of a frustrated great battling with Father Time.

Playing his sixth European Championship and hoping it would prove he could still make a difference at the highest level, he failed miserably to produce the goal that would have made him the oldest player to score in the tournament’s history.

For the second consecutive major international tournament, he will be remembered for his tears.

Portugal have grown used to having Ronaldo as the centre of attention. He is one of the greatest forwards of all time, a figure so big he has raised the bar and lifted the standard of sport in his country.

Ironically, Ronaldo’s stubbornness in trying to prove he can beat the advancing years has denied the chance for the newcomers to take a step forward and prove their own worth.

With Ronaldo unlikely to retire after finding a safe haven in lowly Saudi Arabian side Al Nassr on a contract worth a staggering 173 million pounds ($221.58 million) per year, it remains to be seen if he still has a future in the national team.

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