Portugal manager Fernando Santos says he never doubted the physical condition of Cristiano Ronaldo, following the Juventus forward’s latest star turn for the national team.
Ronaldo, 34, scored yet another hat-trick as the European champions brushed Lithuania aside 6-0 in their Euro 2020 qualification game at the Estadio Algarve.
Cristiano Ronaldo fitness in question? Five key things to know…
- Cristiano Ronaldo was subbed off in Juventus’ recent 1-0 over AC Milan before the hour mark.
- He was visibly unhappy with this and, according to Sky Sport Italia, subsequently left the stadium before full-time.
- His manager Maurizio Sarri says he is not in the “best condition” due to a “little problem” with his knee.
- Ronaldo would tell his national team boss his fitness is no issue before scoring a hat-trick in a 6-0 win over Lithuania.
- His record-equalling ninth international hat-trick during Portugal 6-0 Lithuania moved him to 98 goals.
Santos’ men are yet to seal passage into next summer’s tournament, but will do so if they beat Luxembourg in their upcoming contest and Ronaldo, their most capped international and top-scorer, will expect to feature.
Heading into the Lithuania game there were doubts over Ronaldo’s involvement, especially after he was uncharacteristically subbed off before the hour mark in Juventus’ 1-0 win over AC Milan last weekend. The player reacted angrily toward Sarri after leaving the field. Reports in Italy even say that, had he been selected for a random drugs test, Ronaldo could have received a two-year ban for breaching anti-doping regulations by leaving the stadium before full-time.
Juventus went on to win the game via a Paulo Dybala goal in the 77th minute and reclaim top spot in the Serie A table from Inter Milan.
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In an apparent attempt to defuse the situation during his post-match media conference, Sarri suggested the five-time Ballon d’Or recipient had sustained a knee injury. Ronaldo’s coach with the national team, however, was not among those concerned after having spoken with his captain in the build-up.
“I asked him if he was okay to play, it was just a case of having a conversation with him,” he told RTP.
“I never had any doubts about his condition, it was other people who had them. Nothing surprises me about Cristiano.”
Ronaldo’s race to 100 and beyond
Ronaldo’s ninth international hat-trick — which equalled the record previously set by Sven Rydell with Sweden — saw him move to 98 goals for his national team.
A brace against Luxembourg would see Ronaldo become only the second man to reach 100 goals after Ali Daei, who holds the record for most international goals.
Daei, who earned 149 caps for Iran, was the first to reach that milestone and his 109 goals and now in Ronaldo’s sights. The former Man Utd and Real Madrid star averages 0.6 goals per match and few would bet against him surpassing the 13-year-old record of his Iranian counterpart.