SEVILLE, SPAIN (AFP) – Jan Vertonghen said that Belgium’s focus wouldn’t just be on Cristiano Ronaldo as the Red Devils prepare to take on Portugal in a Euro 2020 last-16 showdown between two of the tournament favourites.
Ronaldo tops the scoring charts at the Euro with five goals in three group stage matches but Benfica defender Vertonghen has his eyes on the European champions’ talented attack as Belgium, the world’s top-ranked team, continue their hunt for a first major international honour.
“He’s the biggest player in the history of Portugal and we have to respect that, and I respect him a lot, but tomorrow it’s not Belgium against Ronaldo, it’s Belgium against Portugal and they have a lot of good players,” said Vertonghen.
“He’s a striker who scores in nearly every match and he’s proved that many times.
“He’s a phenomenon. He’s working hard and training all the time and what he’s done so far, he deserves and maybe he can play until he’s 40 years old.”
Vertonghen was also full of praise for the Belgium’s star forward Romelu Lukaku, who is two goals back in the scoring charts but is in the form of his life.
The 28-year-old pipped Ronaldo to Serie A’s player of the season award last campaign despite scoring five fewer goals as he played a key role in Inter Milan winning their first league title in over a decade.
“The only way I can define him is as one of the best strikers in the world,” said Vertonghen.
“I’ve known him since he was 16 years old and he had to deal with a lot of criticism on his game, but the way he has developed from being a strong, quick kid into one of the best strikers in the world is one of the best things I’ve seen in my career.
“His work ethic is nearly unmatched and everything, every trophy, every individual trophy he gets now wherever he goes is down to that work ethic.”