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Karel Poborsky has surprisingly harsh words for Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of Czech Republic v Portugal

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When you poke the hornet’s nest, you better be ready to get stung. Write off the Manchester United legend at your peril.

And, not that he will need any extra motivation ahead of what may well be his final tournament on the intenrational stage, Cristiano Ronaldo is unlikely to take Karel Poborsky’s criticism lying down.

Speaking ahead of Portugal’s Euro 2024 opener against the Czech Republic on Tuesday night, Poborsky raised eyebrows when he claimed that arguably the greatest goalscorer in modern football was no longer a superhuman pillar of strength but something more akin to a ‘weak link’.

Now, we can understand where the one-time Manchester United winger is cominbg from. Ronaldo, at 39, is certainly no longer the athletic force of old. During his final few months at Old Trafford under Erik ten Hag, the five-time Ballon D’Or winner looked like a man entirely at odds with the intensity and the high-pressing of the elite level of European football.

Lest we forget, meanwhile, Ronaldo was dropped by Portugal after some ineffective performances at the Qatar World Cup, Goncalo Ramos taking his place and scoring a hat-trick against Switzerland in the knockout stages.

Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal celebrates after scoring a goal during the International Friendly match between Portugal and Republic of Ireland at E...

Photo by Gualter Fatia/Getty Images

Manchester United legend firing again ahead of Euro 2024

18 months’ on, however, Ronaldo continues to prove that rumours of his demise have been greatly exaggerated. He scored 50 goals in 51 games for Al-Nassr last season, and has 12 in his last 11 appearances for Portugal.

The Republic of Ireland certainly found out the hard way last week that there is still plenty of life left in the grand old man; Ronaldo ripping the net off it’s hinges with a pair of power-packed finishes.

“I take my hat off to what he’s done, thanks to his enormous self-confidence,” Poborsky tells CTK, his comments feeling particularly brave given Ronaldo’s recent form in front of goal. “(But) I have been saying for a long time that he will be one of Portugal’s weakest elements if he starts.

“The fans of both teams will go crazy for him. But, at his age, he’s not that good at building the game or pressing. This is why I prefer him to start.”

“You can’t stop age. He’s 39,” adds Czech icon Poborsky, who left Old Trafford five years before a teenage Ronaldo joined United from Sporting Lisbon.

“We don’t know how he’s doing with coach (Roberto) Martinez, but his predecessor (Fernando) Santos had already encountered this problem at the World Cup in Qatar.”

Martinez’s more free-flowing, attack-minded football has certainly helped extend Ronaldo’s international career. As has the creativity of former Man United team-mate Bruno Fernandes from his favoured attacking midfield role.

Fernandes was outstanding during Portugal’s faultless qualification campaign. Together with Ronaldo and – to a lesser extent – Diogo Dalot, there could be a very Man United sort of flavour about a Portugal side looking to emulate their continent-conquering displays of 2016 on German soil.

  • READ MORE: Who is Cristiano Ronaldo? Meet one of football’s most iconic names and undisputed Man Utd legend

Portugal are one of the tournament’s favourites

“We are ready,” says centre-back and Man City star Ruben Dias, a ‘leaving the best till last’ sort of feeling as Portugal draw the curtains on the first round of fixtures tonight (Mais Futebol).

“There is a good mix of experience with youth. Even the youngest ones have experience that they acquired at clubs. We have to go through difficulties together and understand where we can improve. This helps build the spirit that we have to have in a competition like this.

“It’s difficult to say that we are the main favorites. We are a very good team and we have the potential to be dangerous. It will all come down to how we grow. We have players with talent, quality and experience.

“It’s a good mix, but we need to find the right mentality to face what’s ahead of us.”

  • READ: Manchester United stars at Euro 2024, fixtures, kick-off times

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