Roberto Martinez has stepped down from his role as head coach of the Belgium national team after six years in charge.
In a statement the Belgian FA thanked Martinez for his service to the country as manager and expressed their disappointment at the team for letting down the country with a poor performance in Qatar.
Belgium are currently ranked 2nd in the FIFA rankings and were tipped to be one of the contenders for the 2022 World Cup. However, the Red Devils struggled to find their best form and crashed out of the competition in the group stage.
The 49-year-old manager had previously guided Belgium to their best ever finish in a World Cup during Russia 2018 and oversaw the nation during a golden generation of talent featuring Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku.
Belgium’s early exit has been viewed as a major disappointment and the country will need a new manager to introduce a fresh lease of life into the team with many star players approaching the twilight of their careers. But where will Roberto Martinez manage next after his Belgian departure and can we expect to see him return to club football?
Here is everything you need to know.
Why did Roberto Martinez leave Belgium?
Roberto Martinez had always planned to step down from his position as Belgium boss at the end of the 2022 World Cup campaign and was coming towards the end of his contract.
The former Everton and Wigan boss spoke about his decision after a disappointing 0-0 draw against Croatia. Martinez said: “That was my last game with the national teams and it’s emotional as you can imagine. It was always going to be the end whether we were world champions or out in the group stage. It has nothing to do with being eliminated at this stage. This is the time for me to accept that this day is the last game.”
Where it went wrong for Belgium
Belgium were placed in a challenging World Cup group featuring Croatia, Morocco and Canada. Entering the tournament, The Red Devils were the resounding favourites to progress as group leaders and on paper possessed the most talented team.
Martinez named a strong squad for the tournament featuring the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Youri Tielemans, Thibuart Courtois and Romelu Lukaku. The Qatar World Cup was viewed as Belgium’s last chance to win a trophy with their golden generation with many of their stars approaching the twilight years of their careers.
Signs of ageing showed in Belgium’s opener. The Red Devils entered the game as overwhelming favourites and were expected to breeze past a Canada team who had last qualified for the World Cup in 1986.
Despite a 1-0 victory in their opener - the warning signs were there and Belgium’s inability to cope with the pace and energy of Canada’s attack led to persistent opening. John Herdman’s side dominated the entirety of the game and were unfortunate not to take a result after squandering a series of clear cut chances.
Throughout the duration of the tournament there were reports of disharmony in the camp and a lack of togetherness in the dressing room and this showed in their second game as they fell to a shock 2-0 defeat to Morocco.Belgium needed a victory in their final game to have any chance of progressing from the group and faced their toughest game on paper in the form of 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia.
In their final game, Martinez named an experienced team and many experts criticised the demographic of the squad with just three of the starting 11 being under the age of 29. Belgium struggled to offer anything going forward in the first 45 minutes and turned to Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku at half time to try and save the day.
Belgium produced their best passage of play in the tournament during the second half against Croatia, however, it was clear that Lukaku was lacking in match fitness and he missed several chances to give his side the all important goal.
What next for Roberto Martinez
Following his six year spell as Belgium manager it appears increasingly likely that Roberto Martinez will make a return to club football. The Spainard admitted he had several opportunities to return to club football after 2018 but wanted to remain loyal to his project at Belgium.
Martinez was reportedly approached by former club Everton during last season, but talks broke down due to his desire to stay on as Belgium head coach.