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Mbappe ‘Honoured’ To Play Against Ronaldo As France, Portugal Clash

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Kylian Mbappe said Thursday it would be “an honour” to play against his boyhood hero Cristiano Ronaldo when France and Portugal meet in the quarter-finals of Euro 2024 in Hamburg on Friday.

“It is an honour. Everyone knows about my admiration for Cristiano,” France captain Mbappe, 25, told reporters on the eve of the game.

Growing up, Mbappe famously decorated his bedroom wall with pictures of Ronaldo and was introduced to the Portuguese superstar at Real Madrid’s training ground when the Spanish club tried to sign him as a young teenager.

“I have got to know him over time. We are still in contact. He still tries to follow my career,” Mbappe said.

Ronaldo, 39 and now playing club football in Saudi Arabia, has admitted this European Championship is set to be his last, which means Mbappe could knock him out of the competition for the final time.

“It is an honour but it doesn’t matter what has happened before or will happen in the future,” added Mbappe, who will follow in Ronaldo’s footsteps as he joins Real after the tournament in Germany.

“He remains a legend of the game but we hope to win tomorrow and take a step closer to the final.

Les Bleus have netted only three times in four games, with one a penalty by Mbappe and the other two coming from own goals, including Jan Vertonghen’s which allowed them to beat Belgium in the last 16.

Mbappe has been hindered by a broken nose, which saw him miss one group game before returning to action while wearing a protective face mask.

He also suggested on Thursday that he is not currently fully fit.

“I don’t think I’m fully fit. It’s not an excuse, but I think to be really at 100 percent, explosive and fast, I need a proper pre-season with my club,” he said.

Mbappe, who recently signed for Real Madrid, will come up against his boyhood idol in Ronaldo, the Portugal captain who is now 39.

“It is an honour. Everyone knows how much I have always admired Cristiano,” Mbappe, 25, said.

“Whatever has happened before or will happen after, he will remain a legend in the game, but of course, we hope to win tomorrow and get through to the semi-final.

Ronaldo is enduring a difficult tournament, failing to find the net and ending up in tears after missing a penalty in the last-16 tie against Slovenia from which Portugal squeezed through on penalties.

Portugal coach Roberto Martinez, meanwhile, insisted the focus cannot solely be on the two opposing superstars.

“Football is a team sport. Tomorrow is not a match between two individuals. They are two incredible players who have a big influence on the game worldwide, and that influence will continue, but tomorrow we will need a real top-level team performance if we are to win,” Martinez said.


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