SAINT-DENIS, France — Cristiano Ronaldo has left a European Championship final in tears for a second time.
Hobbled by a tackle from France’s Dimitri Payet in the ninth minute, the Portugal star struggled on after bouts of treatment on his injured left knee until he accepted the inevitable — that his game was over.
Ronaldo exited the Stade de France pitch on a stretcher in the 25th minute with his hands covering his face to hide the tears beneath.
The three-time world player of the year left his Portugal teammates to try to secure their first major tournament title.
Now aged 31, Ronaldo might not have a better — or even another — chance.
Ronaldo was perhaps the victim of his own over-confidence and nonchalance as Payet charged in to challenge.
Standing still with his right foot hovering over the ball in midfield, Ronaldo struck a teasing pose as if to taunt Payet about what he planned to do next.
When Ronaldo finally passed the ball away, his weight was on his standing left leg that took the force of the Frenchman’s tackle. Payet’s right knee bumped hard into Ronaldo’s left knee, and the pain was immediately obvious.
Ronaldo tried to run off the injury, but repeatedly reached down with his right and left hands to gently press his knee.
The Portugal team doctors treated him once on the sidelines, then bandaged the knee to give greater support.
Still, Ronaldo never looked comfortable and with 23 minutes on the clock, he raised an arm to signal to Portugal coach Fernando Santos that he could not continue.
As Ronaldo was carried off on a stretcher by four stadium staff, first Santos then France coach Didier Deschamps came across and reached down to offer consoling pats with his hand.
At Euro 2004, a teenaged Ronaldo cried on the field in Lisbon after the host Portuguese team lost 1-0 to Greece.
He left his team behind to pull off a similar upset against favoured France on Sunday.