Portugal have announced the appointment of former Belgium boss Roberto Martinez – who takes over as national team coach following the sacking of Fernando Santos.
Santos was axed after Portugal after a disappointing World Cup that saw them stunned 1-0 by Morocco in the quarter-finals – capping off a camp that was plagued by negative headlines and rumours of discontent in the squad – with Cristiano Ronaldo dropped and falling out with his manager.
Martinez himself had a World Cup to forget with Belgium, who failed to even make it out of the group stage and also had a crisis within the squad – with the Spaniard criticised for struggling to make the most of his talented group during his six-year tenure with the side.
Former Belgium boss Roberto Martinez has been appointed as Portugal’s new head coach
Portugal unveiled the Spaniard as their ‘new leader at service’ after replacing Fernando Santos
Martinez said he was ‘very excited’ and said Portugal had ‘the best talent in the world’
Martinez replaces Fernando Santos, who was sacked after their quarter-final loss to Morocco
The former Everton boss will now be hoping for a fresh start with Portugal – who heralded his arrival as their ‘new leader at service’.
‘I appreciate the enthusiasm and ambition with which he (Martinez) received the invitation,’ FPF President Fernando Gomes told a news conference as Martinez stood next to him. ‘This is an important moment for the national team.’
Martinez said: ‘I am very excited to be here. I am very happy to represent one of the national teams with the best talent in the world.
‘From the first time I spoke with the president of the federation I knew this was a sporting project that would excite me.
‘I understand there are great expectations and big objectives, but there is a great team of people at the federation and I have great excitement that together we can achieve those objectives.’
Gomes confirmed Jose Mourinho was a contender for the job – but said Martinez was the only coach offered the role.
‘Mourinho? We talked with many different coaches that fit the profile we were looking for, but there was only one official proposition which was done to Roberto’.
Martinez will be charged with lifting the Portugal team and rallying them for Euro 2024
The ex-Everton boss stood down from Belgium after six years following their group stage exit
Martinez’ first task will be to help a deflated side regroup after their difficult tournament in Qatar and put their focus into winning Euro 2024, which is set to be held in Germany.
He will also be looking to speak with captain Ronaldo after his turbulent few weeks in Qatar where he is reported to have irked team-mates over his attitude and threatened to leave their camp after being dropped by Santos.
Martinez was asked about Ronaldo but said he would ‘not make decisions in an office’ and wanted to sit down with Ronaldo in the near future.
‘Footballing decisions have to be taken on the field. I am not a manager to make decisions in an office.
‘I want to contact all the players in the squad, the list of 26 players, from the last World Cup. That is my starting point and Cristiano is one of the players on that list.
‘He has spent 19 years in the national team. We will sit down and speak.’
Now at Al-Nassr, Ronaldo will be weighing up whether he will play for Portugal again and sorting out his future should be a huge port of call for Martinez.
Belgium’s World Cup was plagued by reports of in-fighting and tensions in the squad
Martinez said he would sit down and speak with Cristiano Ronaldo after his public fallout with former boss Santos in Qatar
Martinez stood down after Belgium were eliminated from the World Cup after they were held to a 0-0 draw against Croatia – with his team needing to win the game to have any chance of progessing.
‘That was my last game with the national team and it was emotional as you can imagine,’ he said at the time. ‘I always work towards long-term projects and they need to be set in advance. That was always the plan.
He explained more about his decision to leave this month, saying he ‘couldn’t control all the emotions anymore’ as he revealed he told the players he was leaving before their final game against Croatia.
‘It was really difficult to get the message that I was going to stop,’ Martinez said. ‘To you, but certainly to the players.
‘I had never done it before and hope I never have to do it again. I couldn’t control all the emotions anymore.’
Martinez’s finest hour came when he pulled off a stunning FA Cup final triumph over Man City
Portugal fans may be concerned about Martinez’s ability to keep the dressing room together after reports of a feud in the squad during the World Cup.
There were claims that Belgium players flew home separately from Qatar at their own expense after rumours of in-fighting and leaks.
During his time as Belgium’s national coach, Martinez led the nation to their best World Cup finish, placing third in Russia in 2018.
Belgium suffered a quarter-final exit at Euro 2020 to eventual champions Italy, before leading the team at the World Cup in Qatar.
Martinez presided over a disappointing campaign with Belgium crashing out in the group stages, despite heading into the tournament as the second highest ranked team in the world by FIFA, as they were beaten 2-0 by Morocco and only narrowly beat Canada.
He later joined Everton but was sacked after back-to-back mid-table finishes in the league
He started his managerial career with Swansea City in 2007 – winning plaudits for his exciting possession-based style of play, before joining Wigan Athletic in 2009. He battled relegation a number of times before sealing an incredible FA Cup win over Man City in 2013 – although the Lactics were relegated in the same season.
He joined Everton the following season and enjoyed a fifth-placed finish in his first season – but could only secure 11th in the following campaign – and in 2015-16 he was sacked in May with his side still stuck in mid-table.
Belgium made the surprising appointment of Martinez in 2016 but many fans and pundits have questioned how he did not achieve more with a side brimming with quality players like Kevin de Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Thibaut Courtois and Toby Alderweireld – when they were all in their prime.
Recently he has been linked with the Club Brugge job – but has opted the stick down the national team route – with his former assistant Thierry Henry in line to replace him as Belgium boss.