Cristiano Ronaldo completes big-money move to Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr, tipped to be earning US$200 million a year
- Portuguese star’s arrival hailed as ‘history in the making’ by club president Musalli Almuammar
- Ronaldo could become face of desert kingdom’s bid to host 2030 World Cup
Cristiano Ronaldo completed a lucrative move to Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr on Saturday in a landmark moment for the game in the Middle East, and could pave the way for the Portuguese star to be the face of the kingdom’s World Cup bid.
Al Nassr posted a picture on social media of the five-time Ballon d’Or winner holding up the team’s jersey after Ronaldo signed a deal until June 2025, with the club hailing the move as “history in the making.”
“This is a signing that will not only inspire our club to achieve even greater success but inspire our league, our nation and future generations, boys and girls to be the best version of themselves,” Musalli Al Muammar, the club’s president, said.
It also gives the 37-year-old Ronaldo a massive payday in what could be the final contract of his career. Media reports have claimed the Portugal star could be earning up to US$200 million a year from the deal, which would make him the highest-paid football player in history.
Ronaldo said in a statement that he was “eager to experience a new football league in a different country”.
“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,” the forward added.
Al Nassr, who are chasing an 18th domestic title, are hoping Ronaldo can guide them to a first AFC Asian Champions League triumph.
“Cristiano is joining a club with big ambitions, a competitive club amongst the very best in Asia and will be welcomed to a country that is making massive progress on and off the pitch with opportunities for all,” the president added.
“But first and foremost, we can’t wait to see him in the number 7 shirt of Al Nassr doing what he does best, scoring goals, winning titles and bringing joy to those who love the beautiful game.”
While the signing is a massive boost for Middle Eastern football, it will also fuel the debate about Saudi Arabia using so-called “sportswashing” to boost the country’s image internationally. Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund owns Premier League team Newcastle, and the country is considering a bid to host the 2030 World Cup.
Ronaldo had been a free agent after his contract was terminated by Manchester United following an explosive television interview in which he criticised manager Erik ten Hag and the club’s owners after having been repeatedly benched and even temporarily suspended by the club.
He is also coming off a disappointing World Cup in Qatar where he was benched in the knockout rounds and left the field in tears after Portugal lost in the quarterfinals to Morocco.
And after a storied career that saw him win the Champions League with both United and Real Madrid, along with league and cup titles in England, Spain and Italy, he will now seemingly see out the last years of his career far away from the spotlight of top European football.
While Saudi Arabia earned their biggest international win in Qatar last month when they beat eventual champions Argentina in the group stage, the domestic league has few other stars and is not watched by a major international audience.