Cristiano Ronaldo is off to Saudi Arabia, completing a lucrative and potentially groundbreaking move to Al Nassr on Friday.
The Portuguese superstar’s contract is worth close to €200 million per year, with commercial deals included, and will run until June 2025, according to Fabrizio Romano of The Guardian. His salary is believed to be the largest ever for a professional footballer, Romano adds.
The decorated attacker, without a club since being released by Manchester United, would be playing in the Saudi Pro League past his 40th birthday if he honored the full contract.
“The vision of what Al Nassr are doing and developing in Saudi Arabia both in terms of men’s and women’s football is very inspiring. We can see from Saudi Arabia’s recent performance at the World Cup that this is a country with big football ambitions and a lot of potential,” Ronaldo, 37, said of his move. “I am fortunate that I have won everything I set out to win in European football and feel now that this is the right moment to share my experience in Asia.”
Ronaldo, a five-time Ballon d’Or winner, reportedly attracted interest from an unnamed Saudi outfit last summer after requesting a transfer from Manchester United. He spurned that opportunity because he wanted to add to his record-breaking tally of 141 Champions League goals and compete for more silverware in Europe. However, no move transpired and Ronaldo eventually left United in November after he made incendiary comments about the club in a tell-all interview with Piers Morgan.
Manchester United said the termination of Ronaldo’s contract was a “mutual agreement.” The veteran marksman followed his disciplinary issues at United with a dispute with then-Portugal head coach Fernando Santos over his substitution during the team’s final group stage game at the World Cup. The disagreement resulted in Ronaldo being dropped to Portugal’s bench after starting each of his country’s previous three matches at the tournament.
Al Nassr, sitting second in the Saudi Pro League table after 10 matches this season, will be Ronaldo’s fifth club. In addition to his two stints with Manchester United, he also starred for Sporting CP, Real Madrid, and Juventus. But he now seems destined to play out the final years of his memorable career away from the spotlight.
Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina and Cameroonian striker Vincent Aboubakar already play for Al Nassr after starring in Europe, while Argentine playmaker Pity Martinez joined from Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United in 2020. Rudi Garcia is the head coach after previously overseeing numerous clubs in Europe, including Roma and Marseille.
Ronaldo’s transfer to Saudi Arabia could give the country a sizable boost to its profile. It’s expected to submit an ambitious bid to host the 2030 World Cup.
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