On Tuesday, Saudi Arabian soccer powerhouse Al-Nassr held a ceremony at its home stadium in Riyadh to officially welcome superstar Cristiano Ronaldo to the club. Ronaldo shocked the sporting world last month when he announced he was leaving legendary English club Manchester United for the obscure Al-Nassr team.
Ronaldo said during his inaugural news conference, “In Europe, my work, it’s done.” I have won everything there is to win, I have played for the biggest clubs in Europe, and now I am ready for a new challenge.
Ronaldo had a press conference before taking the field at Mrsool Park, where a boisterous crowd awaited his arrival in blue and gold team uniforms, smoke cannons, and sparkles. Then, after a few words, he kicked soccer balls into the air for the spectators to enjoy.
During the press conference, he claimed, “Many clubs try to sign me,” seemingly naming clubs in Australia, Brazil, Portugal, and the United States as examples. But I offer the word to this club for the chance to help improve not only the football, but the other aspect of this great country, and that’s a good task for me.
The Portuguese celebrity posted a brief video to Instagram late on Monday night in which he said, “Hi, people, see you soon!” from the cockpit of his private jet.
Later images showed him and his family being greeted with flowers by supporters when they arrived at Riyadh airport.
The group stage play was place in nearby Qatar in November, where the Saudi national team scored a stunning upset victory over eventual World Cup champion Argentina. Foreign governments continue to pour money into European teams, with the English Premier League team Newcastle United now owned by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund.
The United Nations has long urged the oil-rich state to improve its human rights record, and human rights organizations have slammed the country for what they call “sports washing.”
When the Al-Nassr club tweeted the news of Ronaldo’s signing last week, they used the hashtag #historyinthemaking. The new house is ready for Cristiano to move in.
I am thrilled to experience a new football league in a different country,” Ronaldo stated in a statement. In addition, he said, “I am lucky that I have won everything I set out to win in European football, and I feel now is the ideal time to share my knowledge in Asia.”
Ronaldo, who will soon turn 37, will continue to play for the Saudi club until 2025, according to Al-Nassr. Media estimates estimated that his annual salary under the terms of his contract would be around $75 million, making him one of the highest-paid athletes in the history of soccer.
Some of the best soccer players in the world retire in the United States or China rather than in Europe. Ronaldo will join other renowned players from Brazil, Colombia, and Cameroon on the Saudi club’s roster, which is coached by Frenchman Rudi Garcia.
Ronaldo is the first player in history to score at five different World Cups. He has also won the Ballon d’Or five times as the best male soccer player of the year.
Among the teams, he has played for in Europe’s top divisions are Real Madrid of Spain, Juventus of Italy, and Manchester United (twice). After criticizing the club’s American owners and manager in an interview with British journalist Piers Morgan, the erratic player abruptly quit the northern England club in November and became a free agent.
Already the most followed person on Instagram, Ronaldo has contributed part of his fame to the Saudi club. After the news of his joining was made public, the company saw a dramatic increase in its online following, which went from around 860,000 on Monday to over 7.4 million on Tuesday.
It is currently unknown when Ronaldo will make his Al-Nassr debut, although the club has games set for this Thursday and the 14th of January.