Nuno Gomes, Portugal
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Nuno Gomes can ‘picture Kane at Man City’, talks England penalty-shootouts, Portugal memories & says Rooney ‘would’ve done the same’ as Ronaldo in infamous ’06 wink game

| 25.06.2021

Before Portugal face Belgium in a huge Euro 2020 clash on Sunday, we caught up with former Selecao striker Nuno Gomes.

The ex-Benfica and Blackburn man scored 29 goals for Portugal during his career and he discussed Harry Kane’s future, facing England in 2004 and much more…

I can already picture Kane in a Man City shirt

For some time now, we’ve seen Harry Kane’s name linked to some of the biggest clubs in the world. First of all, I think he has to stay in the Premier League; it’s the biggest league in the world, and he already knows the division well.

It’s easy to see why any team would want to sign him; it’s pretty much a guarantee that his statistics and his numbers would bring a team success. He’ll get you between 20-30 goals a season, and he’s still at an age where he has a lot to give.

He wants to find a team which can give him the best chance of winning titles. I don’t know what sort of a project Tottenham Hotspur have at the moment, or whether they can challenge for the title in the next couple of years.

I heard that Manchester City want to sign him. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I can already picture Harry Kane playing in that Man City team, scoring a lot of goals.

Euro 2004: Ricardo goes rogue – none of us knew he was taking his gloves off for the last penalty & he wasn’t supposed to take our next spot-kick

The game against England in 2004 was an amazing occasion to be a part of. In one moment we were down, then we took the lead in extra-time through Rui Costa, and in that moment we thought the game was done. It was late in the game, we were at home, it was an amazing goal, but right after, Frank Lampard equalised.

I think it was fair that the game went to penalties, although it is always harsh on one team when a game goes to that point, but you can’t play forever. There has to be a winner – and on that night it was us.

Penalty shootouts are always a bit like a lottery, so you need to rely on a lot of factors to help you to win. The first penalty of David Beckham’s went straight over the bar, and that gave us a real confidence boost.

And then at the end, our goalkeeper, Ricardo, takes off his gloves for the last penalty and saved it before going on to score the winner.

We had no idea he was going to take his gloves off for that last penalty. I think it just went through his mind at the time, it was an instinctive decision – you know how goalkeepers are. It’s a way of provoking the attacker. I remember being stood on the halfway line and I just thought ‘what is he doing?’ But it all happened so fast.

Ricardo wasn’t supposed to go on to take the immediate penalty afterwards, but he raised his hand there and then to ask for permission. He was allowed to take the next kick because we all thought if he’s just managed to save a penalty without his gloves on, then he has to score the winner.

Ronaldo wink in ’06 was proves he was just trying to gain an advantage for Portugal… Rooney would’ve done the same

There are certain situations which happen on a football pitch that are difficult to explain, and the Cristiano Ronaldo incident in 2006 is one of them, because I understand why he was criticised for doing what he did.

Cristiano and Wayne Rooney were teammates at club level, but when you’re on the field, you’re always trying to get an advantage for your team. I think Rooney would’ve done the same thing if the situation was the other way round.

The wink is not great for people to see, but it proves that Cristiano was just taking advantage of the situation and giving his team the best chance of winning.

I remember there was a lot of talk in the newspapers and on TV after the incident, and people were suggesting Cristiano wouldn’t be returning to Manchester, but that just was not true. None of the talks we had with him went in that direction. He never thought about leaving Manchester, and it was intense for a couple of days after the game, but things started to calm down and we could prepare for our next game in the competition. We didn’t let it affect our concentration or focus at all.

Whatever the game – cards, snooker, table tennis – Ronaldo won’t stop until he’s beat you

We could see from the very beginning that Cristiano [Ronaldo] was different to the other youngsters that we’re playing for the national team.

He was different; he was always wanting to do better; always looking to improve himself. He was eager to play in the starting line-up and always tried to make himself a better player, whether it was on the pitch or in the gym. I think he’s a great example of how to take care of your body as a professional athlete. He’s a complete professional.

In that respect, he hasn’t changed a lot, because he’s always had that mentality. I still look at him as the young player that joined up with the national team in 2003. He still has that willingness to be better, to do more and to score more goals.

He likes having fun as well, and he was a wonderful person to socialise with off the pitch when we played together at major tournaments. He’s the kind of person who likes to joke around with his teammates in the hotel.

He’s a very competitive person in all aspects of his life – not just on the pitch. Playing cards, he wants to win. If he doesn’t win, he wants revenge right away. He’ll make you play again because he wants to beat you.

He’s the kind of guy who is just good at everything; cards, pool, snooker, table tennis. It’s never easy to beat him at anything, and even when you do, he’ll practice for a day, come back and beat you.

Ronaldo can play until he’s 40

I don’t want to think about Cristiano retiring. As a football fan, as his friend, and as a former teammate, it’s lovely to watch him play. He sets an example for youngsters, and doing what he’s still doing at his age, he makes me very proud.

The day will come that he stops, but I hope he can manage to play for a couple more years, because he can definitely bring us more moments of happiness as supporters.

He could maybe even play as late as 40, because of how well he takes care of himself. I think he now has the understanding that he’s not the same Cristiano as he was in his 20s, so he’s started to play in a different role for club and country. He’s more of a centre-froward now, which means he doesn’t have to use as much energy.

He’s always there in the right moments, he makes important decisions, he’s brave and he assumes responsibility in big moments. It seems easy, but it’s never easy to score penalties the way he does in those kind of pressure situations at major tournaments.

Signing for Blackburn

I played for Blackburn Rovers later on in my career, so I still cheer for them today. I hope that soon they can return to the Premier League because their amazing fans deserve it. They have an amazing stadium, an amazing academy, so I hope to see them back in the top-flight as soon as possible.

I moved to Manchester when I joined Blackburn. It wasn’t far from the club, and I really enjoyed my stay there. In fact, while I wouldn’t say I regretted earlier moves in my career, it did make me think that I could’ve perhaps played in England sooner.

I had a couple of chances earlier on in my career to play in England, but for one reason or another it didn’t work out. After Euro 2000 there was some interest in me from the Premier League, but I moved to Fiorentina. Then I spoke with the vice president of Liverpool, and also had talks with Tottenham Hotspur around 2001/02, but again it didn’t happen. I then moved to Benfica and stayed with the club for nine years because it was the club I always supported as a child.

When I received the call from Blackburn, I decided to accept it and experience life in England. It was a new experience that excited me. I moved over with my wife, who got a job in Manchester, and my young son.

We were living in a Portuguese way in our own home, but when we went out, we lived the same way English people did. We were very happy, to tell you the truth. It’s easy to listen to people who haven’t experienced living in England, people say it rains all the time and it gets dark very soon, but we didn’t mind any of that. Yes, of course, the weather could be nicer compared to Portugal, for example. But on the other hand, there are a lot of positives about living in England. There were nice restaurants and theatres in Manchester for my family to visit, we used to always go to concerts in the MEN Arena. We went to see P!nk one time, I remember that night. That was my wife’s choice. We had a lot of fun in Manchester.

When I first joined Blackburn, I’d say Ruben Rochina and Mauro Fornica were the first two players I got to know. I think the Latin in us made us all similar, but after that I got on well with Gael Givet particularly well.

We had a great team on the pitch, and a great bunch of guys off it. David Dunn is another name that springs to mind; an amazing player and a very nice person. Our goalkeeper at the time was Paul Robinson, a very experienced player but he was suffering a lot with injuries. Grant Hanley and Dickson Etuhu are two other names that spring to mind for me. Morten Gamst Pedersen was also at the club when I signed; he made his career at Blackburn; a very good player.

We had a good team, but at the time the club was a little bit of a mess. We started very well in my first season, but then Steve Kean left after discussions with the board which stemmed back to the previous season, and then we ended up having a few different names in charge throughout the campaign. We also lost Leon Best to injury, which was a big hit as he was a great player for us. We were playing well on the whole, but there were a lot of changes above us, and the fans seemed to disagree a lot with the board, so we had problems all heading in the same direction.

But after a few years of that situation, it feels like the people in charge are doing a good job of trying to get the club back to where it belongs.

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Alex Apati

Alex has been with the Ladbrokes PR team since 2017 having previously worked for the news department. From sparring with Peter Fury to talking interviews on the Duke and Duchess' baby names, he's covered a range of sports and novelty events.

A frustrated West Brom fan who is no stranger to an oche, Alex is originally from Dudley, although he's worked hard to rid himself of the Black Country twang.