Ronaldo set for big reveal after shock Saudi move

Ronaldo set for big reveal after shock Saudi move
Ronaldo set for big reveal after shock Saudi move

Riyadh (AFP) – Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo will be unveiled in front of thousands of supporters of Saudi club Al Nassr on Tuesday, a spokesman said, after sealing a shock move estimated to be worth more than 200 million euros.

The 37-year-old, five-time Ballon d’Or winner, will arrive on Monday evening with his family as well as media and technical staff, club spokesman Al-Walid Al-Muhaidib told AFP.

Ronaldo, who left Manchester United under a cloud after slamming the club in a TV interview, will appear at the 25,000-capacity Al Nassr Stadium in Riyadh at 7:00 p.m. (1600 GMT) on Tuesday, officials said.

The latest, and possibly the last, chapter of an illustrious career comes weeks after Portugal were eliminated in the quarter-finals of the World Cup in neighboring Qatar, where arch-rival Lionel Messi lifted the trophy with the ‘Argentina.

Signing Ronaldo until June 2025 is just the latest foray into top sport by an oil-rich Saudi, who has dabbled in Formula 1, boxing and golf and bought the club English from Newcastle United.

Critics have dubbed the strategy “sportswashing” – an attempt by the conservative country to distract from its human rights record.

Al Nassr expects a full stadium for the unveiling, according to an official who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Ronaldo is by far the biggest star to play in Saudi Arabia, although other heavyweights including George Weah, Pep Guardiola and Xavi also had stints in the wealthy Gulf in the twilight of their careers.

Al Nassr, a nine-time Saudi league champion, called Ronaldo’s signing “more than a story in the making”, saying he will inspire the rest of the league and even the country.

In a tweet, Saudi Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal pledged to “soon support the rest of our clubs for quality deals with international stars”.

United terminated Ronaldo’s contract during the World Cup after an explosive interview where he said he felt “betrayed” by the club and had no respect for manager Erik ten Hag.

The Portuguese striker has long been one of football’s highest paid players, earning a €31m salary at Juventus before taking a pay cut to join United.

Ronaldo has won five Champions League titles (2008, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018), league titles in Italy (2019, 2020) with Juventus, in Spain (2012, 2017) with Real Madrid and in England (2007, 2008, 2009) with United.

He is also the top scorer in the Champions League and the Portuguese national team, with whom he won Euro 2016.

In Qatar, he became the first man to score in five World Cups thanks to his penalty in the group stage victory over Ghana.

© 2023 AFP

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