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Portugal coach Roberto Martínez on perfect EURO qualification, Cristiano Ronaldo and coaching style – interview

"It's important to know the person behind the player," says Roberto Martínez as he plots UEFA EURO 2024 glory for Portugal.

Martínez on Portugal's 'evolution'

Following a flawless UEFA EURO 2024 qualification campaign in which they won all ten of their Group J matches, many are tipping Roberto Martínez's free-scoring Portugal as one of the favourites to follow up on their 2016 success and lift the famous Henri Delaunay Cup once more in Germany.

In an interview with UEFA.com, former Swansea, Wigan, Everton and Belgium coach Martínez opened up on his personable managerial style, what makes Cristiano Ronaldo so unique and the importance of learning Portuguese.

Every team's EURO 2024 fixtures

On getting to know his squad

I always feel that when you announce the first squad, you cannot just announce players, it's important to know the person behind the player. With Portugal, you have a long list of players who could be challenging to get into the national team. I was travelling all over the world, from Spain to Portugal, to England, to Italy, Saudi Arabia. I got to meet every single player. It was just a very simple conversation of seeing how they were, where they were in their careers, and you gather an instant feeling that I always believe is necessary to create a dressing room.

Obviously when you start something, there is always a great positive energy, there is a little excitement, everyone starts from fresh. Playing for the national team is a feeling of coming back, it's a feeling of remembering those memories, when they were growing up with those dreams. And that's very special, very, very positive.

Portugal's road to Germany: Every goal

On qualification campaign

Winning ten games is a consequence of going into every match trying to be perfect with what you are trying to achieve. In the first game [against Liechtenstein], I saw it at half-time. I think that's a moment I realised that the group had an incredible capacity to put things in place, to execute aspects that would get individual talent into a level of being a very powerful team.

And that was the moment, half-time against Liechtenstein. I knew that we had the commitment of a group of players that wanted to do whatever it would take to make the team stronger. And at that point, you know that you can work.

Great Portugal EURO goals

On Cristiano Ronaldo

There are not many players who have achieved what he's achieved. He is an example in many ways. To be the only player to reach more than 200 games for your country – that's something that is not going to be achieved easily.

What surprised me about Cristiano is that he always defies his age. After every session, the technical staff and I will be amazed that a player who's achieved everything, who could have the choice of what effort he puts in in training, is driven by winning, is obsessed by being the best, is obsessed about that perfection that he wants to achieve in his career. That's contagious.

Young players, when they come to the national team, are seeing someone who is a person, player or idol that they've been looking up to. His behaviour is beyond belief, and that's something that we need to treasure in Portugal. If we can have players like Pepe, like Ronaldo, setting that example, passing [on] that example, they're going to make us better for the next generations to come. That's what Cristiano brings. He's a winner, and he's unique in the way that he sees the game.

Ronaldo's ten Portugal qualification goals

On learning Portuguese

It's a wonderful language and the reason [for] wanting to speak Portuguese is because, if I'm a fan of the national team, I would like my national team coach to speak in Portuguese. There are aspects that mean a lot to the national team; the anthem, the lyrics, the language. They live football in a very passionate way, something that didn't surprise me at all, because I'm from Spain.

There are many aspects that you understand by understanding the language. That's the reason for it. It wasn't necessary, because every Portuguese player understands Spanish, they can speak English, and all the players are very familiar working with three languages. But I think it's essential for us, a sense of identity and a sense of pride, that we can all be speaking in Portuguese.