Cristiano Ronaldo will become the first superstar of the Saudi Pro League when he makes his Al-Nassr debut.
The 37-year-old made the somewhat surprising decision to sign for the Middle Eastern club on Friday after agreeing to mutually terminate his Manchester United contract in November.
Ronaldo has signed a contract until 2025 after a meeting in Madrid and will wear the No. 7 shirt. “I am excited to try a new football league in a different country. The vision that Al-Nassr is working with is very inspiring. I am looking forward to meeting my teammates, and together help the team achieve more successes,” Ronaldo said.
Ronaldo’s heart still desired a club playing in the Champions League, but suitors were not forthcoming. In that absence, a mega-money contract at Al-Nassr was the most attractive alternative, so here we are.
Following the move to Saudi Arabia, we have put together a guide to what awaits the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
Which team is Cristiano Ronaldo joining?
Ronaldo will be playing his football at Al-Nassr.
They are second in the league in Saudi Arabia, sitting two points behind Al-Shabab after 10 games of the 2022-23 season. The Al-Nassr bosses will hope that the introduction of Ronaldo is enough to reclaim the title.
Musalli Al-Muammar, Al-Nassr’s chairman, said: “This deal is more than a new chapter in history. This player is a role model for all sports people and youngsters all over the world. And with his presence in Al-Nassr, we will strive forward to achieve more success for the club, Saudi Arabian sports and the next generations”.
Their last league triumph, which came in the 2018-19 season, was the ninth time they won the Saudi Pro League. They have also won the King’s Cup on six occasions.
Ronaldo will have to become acclimatized to playing in a smaller home stadium. Al-Nassr’s Mrsool Park can only hold 25,000 supporters, a far cry from the 74,310 that can squeeze into Old Trafford and the 81,004 that previously watched him strut his stuff at the Bernabeu.
Who is Cristiano Ronaldo’s new manager?
It is fair to say that, at times, Ronaldo did not quite see eye-to-eye with both of the managers he worked under during his second spell at Manchester United. So here’s hoping he gets on well with his new boss.
Fans of European football will already be familiar with the man tasked with coaching Ronaldo next.
Rudi Garcia was appointed head coach at Al-Nassr back in June.
From his point of view, there will be no issue with having a superstar in his ranks, in fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Speaking in response to a question about Ronaldo potentially joining, Garcia could hardly hide his excitement.
“I think that any coach would be delighted to train a great star like Cristiano and already in November 2021 I was very close to going to United,” he told AS earlier this month. “They chose Ralf Rangnick, but I met twice with John Murtough and Darren Fletcher.
“I came very close to coaching this club and was very motivated to go, who wouldn’t be motivated to coach United?” Any coach. United’s simple interest has allowed me to be sure of my ambitions in the future.
“I have always thought that the great players are the easiest to manage because they are very intelligent, I verified this with Francesco Totti at Roma.”
His time as manager of the Serie A giants, as well as with Marseille and Lyon, will leave Garcia much better equipped to manage Ronaldo than many of the other managers in the Middle East.
Are there any other big names in the Saudi Pro League?
Ronaldo is now, unsurprisingly, the biggest name in the Saudi Pro League, as he would be in the vast majority of leagues around the world.
There are a couple of recognizable names in the league but no one that comes anywhere near the stature of the Portuguese forward.
The best players currently plying their trade in the Saudi Pro League include Brazilian pair Matheus Pereira – formerly of West Brom – and Anderson Talisca, the Al-Nassr forward currently leading the Golden Boot race.
Meanwhile, there are 10 other big names that you might recognize, including one player who scored one of the stand-out goals of the 2022 World Cup.
- Vincent Aboubakar
- Ever Banega
- Odion Ighalo
- Grzegorz Krychowiak
- David Ospina
- Helder Costa
- Abderrazak Hamdullah
- Luiz Gustavo
- Felipe Caicedo
- Ahmed Hegazy
Prior to this season, former Juventus forward and 23-time Italian international Sebastian Giovinco was probably the most well-known player in the league. However, after scoring 16 goals in 83 appearances for Al-Hilal, he left in 2021.
Are Saudi Pro League games available to watch?
Unfortunately for those of you hoping to watch Ronaldo regularly for Al-Nassr, the Saudi Pro League is not available to watch outside of the Middle East and North Africa.
SSC currently holds the rights for the division, but matches are only broadcast in those regions, for now.
While watching live games might not be an option, the Saudi Pro League Twitter account posts clips of the action.
Will Ronaldo play in the AFC Champions League?
The UEFA Champions League has been Ronaldo’s playground for much of his career. He is the leading goalscorer in the competition and no one has more titles than the five he accumulated at Manchester United and Real Madrid.
So, it will be music to his ears that he has the opportunity to play in the Champions League again, albeit a different version.
However, he will have to wait for that privilege as Al-Nassr are not involved in this year’s competition. They will have to win either the Saudi Pro League or the King’s Cup this season to make it into next year’s Champions League, something Ronaldo will be eager to play a key role in.
What are the goalscoring records that Ronaldo could break?
As he has claimed in interviews over the years, records and accolades are so important to Ronaldo. After moving to the Saudi Pro League, he will be eager to break as many records as possible, although he might have his work cut out.
Here are a few of them that he will have his eye on, some more unlikely than others.
- Most Saudi Pro League goals: 189 – Majed Abdullah
- Most Saudi Pro League goals in a season: 34 – Abderrazak Hamdallah in 2018/19
- Most AFC Champions League goals: 43 – Dejan Damjanovic
- Most AFC Champions League goals in a season: 13 – Muriqui, Adriano and Baghdad Bounedjah
(Photo: Francois Nel/Getty Images)