Ronaldo has found sidekick in Quaresma, says Richard Buxton
One-time wonderkid offers hint he could be Ronaldo's able lieutenant
(Cristiano Ronaldo 36, 45, Ricardo Quaresma 39, 77, Danilo Pereira 55, Karol Mets og-61, Eder 80)
Cristiano Ronaldo may not have to go it alone at Euro 2016, after all.
He remains Portugal's talisman, leader and, more often than not, lifebuoy - but, barely 48 hours away from the Finals, there were signs of support.
Fittingly, the last competing nation to round off their preparations for France stepped up to the plate in their final pre-tournament hurrah with a merciless 7-0 thrashing of Estonia.
The case that a more harmonious Portuguese ensemble will be stepping out at Euro 2016 rather than a one-man band belatedly surfaced at Lisbon's Estadio da Luz yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Relying on Ronaldo has become Portugal's default stance in recent times, to the point that they have been rendered impotent on the rare occasions when his mercurial talent has succumbed to the perils of being human.
Even armed with a plethora of personal accomplishments that have surpassed the long-standing records held by both Eusebio and Luis Figo, the Real Madrid powerhouse is not infallible - neither are those currently surrounding him.
Yet, in Ricardo Quaresma he has found a formidable supporting cast member.
Unspectacular in Barcelona, ineffectual at Inter Milan and catastrophic during a short-lived spell with Chelsea, the one-time wonderkid (right) has written both chapter and verse on floundering emphatically among the European elite.
He has perennially lived in the shadows; his arrival at the Nou Camp coincided with that of Ronaldinho while he failed to capture Jose Mourinho's imagination during his time at the San Siro in the same way that Zlatan Ibrahimovic did.
The same has been true of Portugal, where Ronaldo's sceptre still reigns supreme.
Now 32, Quaresma could finally be about to shake things up on the continent if a domineering showing during his country's biggest win since their 7-0 demolition of North Korea at the 2010 World Cup is a reliable indicator.
Involved in five of the goals, he provided coach Fernando Santos with a compelling argument that Ronaldo is not his only player capable of moments of breathtaking quality.
Showcasing his trademark "trivela", he demonstrated his class with two pin-point curling efforts; the first to the head of an unmarked Ronaldo and another into the top right-hand corner of Pavel Londak's net.
That Santos chose to persevere with Quaresma after the interval while Ronaldo took a back seat was no slight on the Besiktas winger, who went on to double his tally and provide a further two assists.
With three strikes in his last two games for Portugal, it is a remarkable renaissance for a player who had just five in the previous 48 outings.
He made his international debut some 16 summers ago but this latest one may yet prove to be the sweetest.
With Portugal set to rule over a "soft" Group F, the team are dreaming big.
Working in tandem with the likes of Quaresma may be an alien concept for someone who remains a one-man tour de force for both club and country.
But Ronaldo will need all the help he can get if Portugal are to overcome the big guns that lie in wait in the knockout stages.
He will not be short of options on that front, as Renato Sanches' whirlwind trajectory continues at pace and threatens to even vault him into the role of heir to the 31-year-old's throne.
It was at the European Championships in 2004 that Ronaldo announced his arrival on the global stage; with a heady mix of twists, turns and, notably, tears.
Bayern Munich's €35-million ($53m) capture is unlikely to be turning on the waterworks in a similar fashion this summer, but Sanches has the capability and verve to leave France marvelling in his wake, in the same way his captain once did.
And with a major contribution from Quaresma, this Portugal cannot be faulted for thinking big.
Favourites? no, we’re a team that are very ambitious to win and that’s what we’re working towards, but we’re not favourites. We lack titles. We have to keep working and show where we want to get.
- Ricardo Quaresma (above) on Portugal’s Euro 2016 chances