Saudi club Al Nassr signs Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo completed a lucrative move to Saudi club Al Nassr on Friday in a game-changing deal for football in the Middle East.

Al Nassr posted a picture of the five-time Ballon d’Or winner on social media holding up the team shirt, with the club hailing the signing as « a story in the making ».

« This is a signing that will not only inspire our club to achieve even greater success, but will also inspire our league, our nation and future generations, boys and girls, to be the best version of themselves. » writes the club.

It also gives Ronaldo, 37, a huge salary in what could be the last contract of his career. The media claimed that the Portuguese star could earn up to US$200 million a year from the deal.

While the signing is a huge boost for Middle Eastern football, it will also fuel debate over Saudi Arabia’s use of so-called ‘sportswashing’ to boost the country’s image internationally. . Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund owns Premier League side Newcastle, and the country is planning 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 criticized manager Erik ten Hag and the club’s owners. He is coming off a disappointing World Cup where he was benched in the round of 16 and Portugal lost in the quarter-finals to Morocco.

He will now seemingly see the final years of his career away from the spotlight of top European football, as he is by far the biggest name to play in the Saudi league.

Saudi Arabia scored their biggest international football victory at the World Cup in Qatar last month when they beat eventual champions Argentina in their first group stage match. But he failed to reach the round of 16 and the domestic league has few other stars and is not watched by major international audiences.

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