Fading world soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo said on Tuesday that his move to Saudi club Al Nassr was not the end of his career but a new step in his pursuit of records after “winning everything” in Europe.
At the age of 37, the Portuguese striker, who is considered one of the greatest footballers of all time, met the supporters of the Saudi club, who saw the first stage in the signing of the rich and ambitious owners, who intend to start the “galactic dream”.
“I’m done in Europe”
The five-time Ballon d’Or and five-time Champions League winner, who left Manchester United at the start of the World Cup, has signed until June 2025 for an estimated total of €200 million.
— AlNassr FC (@AlNassrFC_EN) January 3, 2023
“I’m done in Europe, I’ve won everything, I’ve played in the most important clubs,” he told reporters at Riyadh’s Mrsool Park stadium.
“Many clubs from Europe, as well as Brazil, Australia, the United States and even Portugal tried to sign me, but I promised this club,” said the star striker who arrived a day ago. was expected by 25,000 spectators gathered inside the club.
Ronaldo, who is the record holder for the number of goals scored in the selection and the Champions League, emphasized that football “has changed in the last ten to twenty years”, referring to Saudi Arabia’s victory over Argentina in the first round of the world. cup.
“So for me, coming to Saudi Arabia is not the end of my career,” he said. “And to be honest, I don’t care what people say,” he added, erasing any notion of exile or pre-golden retirement.
“I’m a unique player. It’s good to come here, I broke all the records there (in Europe) and I want to break a few more here,” he said.
Saudi Arabia, a desert country of 35 million people, has been rocked by Ronaldomania since the recruitment announcement. If Ronaldo is not the first aging soccer star to join a Gulf club, then never before has a player of his caliber been signed in the region.
“Asia has never seen anything like this,” reports the English-language Gulf News, based in Dubai. “He will attract attention wherever he goes and if only 10% of his followers are interested in his new club, the Saudi League will become one of the most watched clubs in the world.”
Al-Nassr, whose Instagram account gained millions of subscribers in a few hours, intends to give a serious boost to the team that was founded in 1955, removed from the national championship since 2019 and wants to put on a good show with this big blow. In the Asian Champions League, where Saudi Arabia’s rival Al-Hilal is the title holder and the holiest club.
With an unusual experience, “CR7” acts as the nacelle leader for a project that wants to be bigger. According to a club official who spoke on condition of anonymity, his former Real Madrid partner, Croatian midfielder Luka Modric, is in the yellow-and-blue club’s sights, as is Chelsea’s French midfielder N’Golo Kante.
Al-Nassr, the source adds, wants to build a “new Galaxy”, a reference to the Real Madrid of the 2000s and its star cluster, from Portugal’s Luis Figo to England’s David Beckham, Brazil’s Ronaldo and France’s Zinedine Zidane. Zidane.
Ronaldo arrives in Riyadh just weeks after stopping Portugal in the quarter-finals of the World Cup in Qatar, the first Gulf nation to host the Queen’s competition. Saudi Arabia is keen to emulate its wealthy neighbor with a possible bid for the 2030 edition, along with Egypt and Greece.
His high-profile arrival has already cast a spotlight on the Saudi oil empire, which has a presence in top-level sports through Formula 1, boxing and golf, and whose consortium recently took over England’s Newcastle club.
Some criticize the “sport washing” strategy, an attempt by the conservative regime led by Prince Mohammed bin Salman to sidestep human rights criticism.
At the yellow and blue club, Ronaldo will be coached by Frenchman Rudy Garcia and will be alongside former Ligue 1 residents such as Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina, Brazilian midfielder Luiz Gustavo and Cameroonian forward Vincent Abubakar.