Cristiano Ronaldo was slowly leaving the field when Romelu Lulacu came to hug him.
The two embraced for a few moments as Lukaku spoke into the ear of the Portuguese grandee. Ronaldo thanked him politely, but quickly returned to the tunnel.
He was not in a very chat mood.
As Lukaku advanced to the quarterfinals of the European Championship with Belgium, Ronaldo was heading home after a disappointing end to his tournament – and his season.
There was no repeat European title. There was no world record. And there will probably be no Player of the Year award.
Ronaldo, 36, had a weak season in Portugal’s 1-0 loss to Belgium in the Euro 2020 quarterfinals on Sunday.
Although he scored more than 40 goals with his club and his country, his numbers were far from impressive by his standards. He failed to win the Italian league with Juventus, where his future remains uncertain with the contract, which expires next year. His only titles in 2021 come in the Italian Cup and the Italian Super Cup.
Ronaldo started fantastically at Euro 2020, scoring five goals in the first three games to catch up with former Iranian striker Ali Daey as the all-time men’s goal scorer with 109 goals.
If he continued to score and if Portugal stayed on the road for another title, he could return to the conversation for player of the year.
It didn’t happen.
Ronaldo threw his captain’s armband after the last whistle against Belgium, after which he was one of the first to leave. Portugal had several chances throughout the match at La Cartuja Stadium in Seville, but Ronaldo himself was not a big threat. He had several chances of free kicks in each half and with a shot from inside the area near the end of the match.
Ronaldo was backed by a talented Portuguese team that included Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandez and Diogo Iota, among others. But they also shook in attack on Sunday and Thorgan Hazard’s first-half goal was ultimately enough to send Belgium to the quarter-finals.
Portugal lost at the same stage of the 2018 World Cup, two years after winning its first major Euro 2016 title. The team’s other triumph was winning the First League of Nations in 2019.
“We are very disappointed because we believed we could win, as we did in 2016,” said Portugal coach Fernando Santos. “But there are things to look forward to. In 2018 we were also eliminated, but then in 2019 we won the League of Nations. We will now try to win the World Cup (in 2022).
By then, Ronaldo will be 37 years old and will probably have already broken the international record.
For now, he can still be reassured by the opportunity to finish as the top scorer at Euro 2020. He remains the leading scorer of the tournament with five goals, one more than Patrick Schick from the Czech Republic, who qualifies for the quarterfinals.