RIYADH – Cristiano Ronaldo is looking forward to new experiences after joining Al Nassr on an estimated €200 million (S$286.7 million) per year once commercial agreements are included.
It is reportedly the highest salary paid to a professional footballer. In the summer, Ronaldo turned down a £305 million deal to join another Saudi team – Al Hilal – because he was happy at Manchester United.
The Portuguese striker, 37, departed United in November though after an explosive television interview in which he said he felt betrayed by the club and that he did not respect their Dutch manager Erik ten Hag.
Al Nassr issued a statement saying the five-time Ballon D’Or winner will join until 2025 but did not disclose any financial details.
“I can’t wait to discover a new football league in a different country,” said the former Real Madrid and Juventus player.
“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 vision with which Al Nassr operates is very inspiring, and I am delighted to join my teammates, so that together we can help the team achieve greater success.”
Pictures were released of him holding Al Nassr’s blue and yellow jersey with his favoured No. 7 printed on the back. The team have won nine Saudi Pro League titles, the last in 2019, and are second in the standings.
Ronaldo will arrive with a vast collection of club honours after a glittering spell at Spanish giants Real from 2009-18 where he won two La Liga titles, two Spanish Cups, four Champions League titles and three Club World Cups.
He went on to score a club record 451 times for Real and has more than 800 senior goals overall for club and country.
Ronaldo claimed two Serie A titles and a Copa Italia trophy in three years at Juventus before rejoining United, with whom he had bagged three Premier League crowns, the FA Cup, two League Cups, the Champions League and Club World Cup.
He played for Portugal in Qatar, becoming the first player to score in five World Cups. His team lost in the quarter-finals to Morocco.
Ronaldo said Qatar would probably be his last World Cup as he plans to retire at 40, with a move to Saudi Arabia likely to mark the swansong in the career of one of the game’s greatest current players alongside Lionel Messi.
He had initially been linked to a string of Champions League contenders including Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Napoli, and also a return to his first club Sporting Lisbon. There was also talk of a move to the MLS (Major League Soccer) to join Inter Miami, part-owned by former United teammate David Beckham, but none of those deals came to fruition.
“This is more than history in the making,” Al Nassr president Musalli Almuammar said. “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.”
The Saudi Arabian club are hoping Ronaldo can help them win another domestic league title and a first AFC Asian Champions League. For Saudi Arabia, Ronaldo is the latest high-priced sporting jewel acquired to add lustre to their international image after critics accused the country of “sports washing” in regard to their poor human rights record.
The rebel LIV Golf series has offered huge guaranteed contracts and purses to attract stars.
Saudi Arabia has also staged heavyweight boxing title bouts, and has hosted a Formula One grand prix the last two years as well as the Dakar Rally.
The Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia acquired Premier League club Newcastle in 2021 and is being linked with Ronaldo’s former club United. REUTERS, AFP