Cristiano Ronaldo: Playing Euro 2024 aged 39 ‘a gift’

Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo has called the national team “the love of his life” and considers it “a gift” to still be playing at the highest level aged 39.

Ronaldo warmed up for his record-extending sixth European Championship by scoring twice in Tuesday’s 3-0 triumph over the Republic of Ireland to increase his international men’s record goal tally to 130.

“I know I don’t have many years of football left,” Ronaldo said. “It’s a gift to play year after year, after 35. I’m 39 and every year is about enjoying [myself]. To score for the national team is special. The national team is the love of my life, winning the Euros would be a dream.”

The former Real Madrid and Manchester United star has represented Portugal since 2003 and lifted the European Championship in 2016.

“For me, playing for the national team is a passion, a love,” he said. “Any game is special, a European Championship is special, it will be my sixth, which is also a record.

“Playing in 2004, when I made my [European Championship] debut, or playing today, the feeling is always of pride and passion. It doesn’t get any better than this.”

Portugal coach Roberto Martinez recently described Ronaldo as “unique.”

Despite missing out on silverware this season, Ronaldo scored a Saudi Pro League record 35 goals for Al Nassr in his first full campaign at the club.

“The most important thing is that I am well physically and psychologically,” Ronaldo said. “I am prepared, I always prepare in the best way, I am 100% professional. I will be ready as always to help our country [at the Euros] and respect the coach’s decisions.”

Ronaldo did not start in Portugal’s last two games at the 2022 World Cup, including their 1-0 defeat to Morocco in the quarterfinals.

The benching, according to then Portugal coach Fernando Santos, was not well received by the player.

Portugal, now under Martinez, are among the favourites to win Euro 2024.

Asked if they can replicate the feat of 2016, Ronaldo said: “The thought has to be that, be positive, take it step by step. Dreaming is free and this team has the talent to dream. Nothing can be achieved without work, we have to work and fight.

“We need to take advantage of this generation of talent to do something beautiful at the European Championship. But I repeat again: talent is not enough. We have to work. We want to start the European Championship in the best possible way.”

Portugal kick off their Group F campaign against Czechia on June 18. They also play Turkey and debutants Georgia in the first stage.