Everton midfielder Andre Gomes has returned to the national team as one of five changes made to the squad by Portugal coach Fernando Santos for the UEFA Nations League games against Italy and Poland.
Gomes has not featured for A Selecao since a World Cup qualifier in March but has started in Everton’s last three league games since recovering from a muscular injury.
Portugal travel to Milan to face Italy on Nov. 17 before facing Poland in Guimaraes three days later, still without Cristiano Ronaldo.
The captain and national team’s all-time leading scorer is absent by mutual consent and is expected to be recalled next year.
“The only thing I think about Ronaldo is that he should win the Golden Ball,” Santos said in Thursday’s news conference.
Ronaldo — who has scored seven goals and set up five others in 11 Serie A starts for Juventus and scored his first Champions League goal for them in Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to former club Manchester United — has not featured for the national team since Portugal’s round of 16 World Cup defeat to Uruguay.
His absence has not hindered Portugal, however.
“The team has responded well in the last few games,” Santos said. “I’m very satisfied with the attitude of the team and I hope we can continue in the same way.”
After two games, Portugal top Group Six of the UEFA Nations League with six points and have a game in hand with respect to Italy, who are second with four points and Poland, who have one. Portugal need one point to qualify for the finals.
“Portugal always plays to win, we maintain the same mentality,” Santos said. “Our aim since I joined the team was to win.”
Inter Milan midfielder Joao Mario also returns to the fold with his last appearance a 2-1 defeat to Uruguay in the second round of the World Cup.
Borussia Dortmund defender Rafael Guerreiro, Lille defender Jose Fonte and Benfica striker Rafa Silva are also back in the squad.
Santos expects a different game with respect to their 1-0 home triumph over Italy on Sept. 10.
“The Italian team is not the same as the one we faced here,” he said. “It’s a different team. It will be a game that both teams are determined to win. Obviously, we want to be in the final four and we have two games to achieve that. But we have to focus on one game at a time.
“Italy is always favourite and more so when playing at home.” Santos has dropped Wolverhampton Wanderers striker Helder Costa as well as defenders Kevin Rodriguez, Pedro Mendes and midfielders Gedson Fernandes and Sergio Oliveira.
Portugal’s 25-man squad:
Goalkeepers: Beto (Goztepe), Claudio Ramos (Tondela), Rui Patricio (Wolverhampton Wanderers).
Defenders: Cedric Soares (Southampton), Joao Cancelo (Juventus), Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund), Luis Neto (Zenit St. Petersburg), Mario Rui (Napoli), Jose Fonte (Lille), Pepe (Besiktas), Ruben Dias (Benfica).
Midfielders: Bruno Fernandes (Sporting Lisbon), Danilo Pereira (Porto), Andre Gomes (Everton), Pizzi (Benfica), Renato Sanches (Bayern Munich), Ruben Neves (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Joao Mario (Inter), William Carvalho (Real Betis).
Forwards: Andre Silva (Sevilla), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), Bruma (RB Leipzig), Eder (Lokomotiv Moscow), Goncalo Guedes (Valencia), Rafa Silva (SL Benfica).