Saudi Arabia’s bid to become a footballing powerhouse could be set for a boost as it’s rumoured that Cristiano Ronaldo has agreed a deal to sign with Al-Nassr.
The Portuguese ace, currently a free agent after tearing up his Manchester United contract, was thought to be considering a short-term move back to Real Madrid to cover for the injured Karim Benzema.
But it’s now claimed that the 37-year-old is in talks with Al-Nassr, one of the most successful club sides in Saudi Arabia.
And if those reports are to be believed, Ronaldo could be set to play on past his fortieth birthday – earning €200 million a year for the privilege. That would net him around £510 million across the course of his rumoured three-year deal.
Little is known about Al-Nassr’s owners, although they evidently have plenty of money to burn. It’s not thought they have any connection to the Saudi aristocracy or Public Investment Fund, which acquired Newcastle United last year.
Their chairman, Musalli Al-Muammar, was once the president of the Saudi Pro League, and held the position of ‘advisor’ to the Saudi General Entertainment Authority for sports affairs and internal communications.
Ronaldo, if he does decide to move to the Middle East, will at least be able to communicate with Portuguese-speaking Brazilians, Talisca and Luiz Gustavo. The latter won 45 caps for Brazil, while the former was amazingly once amongst the highest paid players in the world following his stint at Chinese outfit Guangzhou FC.
Other familiar faces at Al-Nassr include Vincent Aboubakar, the striker who scored an audacious ‘scoop’ for Cameroon in their frantic World Cup 2022 draw with Serbia, former Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina and ex Villarreal defender Alvaro Gonzalez.
Others that have plied their trade in the Premier League who are now playing in Saudi Arabia include Odion Ighalo, Helder Costa, Ahmed Hegazi and Grzegorz Krychowiak.
No Fringe Benefits for CR7
Ronaldo’s unlikely bid to become the all-time top goalscorer in World Cup history has been dealt a huge blow after his ‘goal’ against Uruguay was instead handed to teammate Bruno Fernandes.
Having found the net against Ghana in Portugal’s opener, Ronaldo took his tally to eight World Cup goals – eight shy of Miroslav Klose’s all-time tally of 16.
The 37-year-old, presumably playing in his final World Cup, thought he had added a ninth when Fernandes’ cross-cum-shot went close to brushing his fringe in the game against the Uruguayans.
He ran off and delivered his trademark ‘siu!’ celebration, although the announcer at the Lusail Iconic Stadium instead awarded the goal to Fernandes.
Ronaldo has since protested vehemently that the ball did touch his head, however Adidas – who have implemented a form of tracking device into the World Cup ball – have revealed that their data shows the Portuguese forward did not make any contact.
And so now the Nike-wearing attacker will have to go on a prolific run for the rest of his time in Qatar….or hope the Saudis invest in a cryogenic chamber so that he can appear at the 2026 World Cup in North America at the age of 41.