RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Cristiano Ronaldo’s new chapter started with a win, however no objectives, as Saudi Arabia debuted its most costly athlete in historical past.
Al Nasr beat Itifaq 1-0 to complete prime of the Saudi Professional League however the Portuguese striker, who is about to earn $200 million a 12 months for the subsequent two-and-a-half years, was no exception at Mirsol Park on Sunday night time. years. Aaron Choose’s new nine-year, 360 million greenback contract with the New York Yankees – the newest megadeal in American sports activities – is not even shut, and even when Ronaldo cannot discover the web in his first official look. His new membership, league and nation really feel worth for cash.
“The world is watching,” Al Nasser’s official Twitter account mentioned shortly earlier than the launch at Itifaq. This sport could not examine to the top-of-the-table conflict between Arsenal and Manchester United within the Premier League, however there is no denying Ronaldo’s influence. All of the sudden everybody is aware of Al Nasser and their yellow and blue shirts.
Ronaldo, who made his first look for Al Nasser after showing in a pleasant towards Paris Saint-Germain on Thursday, was nonetheless getting used to his new environment and ran to heat up within the mistaken a part of the pitch earlier than his teammates turned again. Lastly, on the proper spot, he went via his pre-match routine in entrance of the yellow flag and chants of “Ronaldo, Ronaldo,” adopted by two drum bangs of “Siuu!” yet one more time. Then once more. And once more.
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Al Nasr followers have been left to attend to see Ronaldo of their colours after an FA ban from his time at Manchester United delayed his debut for practically a month. Though the membership was reluctant to just accept the ban, tickets for the match bought out inside three hours after the followers discovered that Atifac could be their first opponent.
The questions raised about Ronaldo’s suspension will not be the one ones left unanswered. Within the 24 hours earlier than kick-off on Saturday, there was a gradual stream of followers shopping for Ronaldo’s jersey from Al Nasser’s store in Riyadh for 364 Saudi riyals (about $100), however there was no affirmation of the quantity bought after the signing.
There are additionally questions on the place Ronaldo’s wage will come from. Al Nasser president Musali Al Muammar hinted at an announcement earlier this month that important commerce offers would comply with shortly, however no bulletins have been made but. Officers on the Saudi Professional League mentioned that they had no involvement within the switch, apart from welcoming him, however what is evident is that final 12 months, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund (PIF) struck $2.3 billion in sponsorship offers with native soccer golf equipment.
Al Nasr chiefs anticipate rival golf equipment to signal a star participant of their very own quickly, with Saudi Sports activities Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal pledging to “help the remainder of our golf equipment with high quality offers with worldwide stars quickly”.
Within the meantime, Al Nasr is having fun with his new icon. The statue on the stadium’s flagpole offers Roma one-time supervisor Rudi Garcia heart stage, rejoicing each contact on the Etihad, good or unhealthy. The primary two had been poor as they had been twice dispossessed, however he quickly settled right into a sport that lacked the tempo and depth of the Premier League.
There was loads of time and house for his methods and degree video games, every of which was revered by the general public, and maybe one of many explanation why he selected Saudi Arabia.
After struggling to maintain taking part in for Manchester United or Portugal, he is again to being at his greatest on the pitch, though there’s nonetheless a sense that his presence here’s a bit misplaced. It is like LeBron James leaving the NBA to complete his profession within the Chinese language Basketball League, or Tom Brady taking his closing stint someplace in Jap Europe. Ronaldo is raking in some huge cash – round $550 a day – however little when it comes to status.
After 5 Champions League titles and 5 Ballon d’Ors, Ronaldo could really feel he does not want extra, though he nonetheless has the desire to attain. Ronaldo slammed his fingers on his toes in frustration as his two new teammates determined to see out the ultimate minutes at Etihad as a substitute of getting into the penalty space. He needed the primary objective.
“All people is aware of Cristiano Ronaldo, he is among the best gamers within the historical past of soccer,” Garcia mentioned. “It is essential for us to do all the things we are able to to place him in fine condition. I need him to get pleasure from taking part in and he was comfortable to play along with his new crew tonight.”
Ronaldo applauded the Al Nasser supporters behind the objective earlier than leaving the pitch, spent the night time waving yellow flags up and down, and gave his girlfriend Georgina Rodriguez the thumbs up as he disappeared into the tunnel. This was adopted by chants of “Ronaldo, Ronaldo” and a bunch of Etifac gamers who appeared to wish to take the shirt house as a memento.
One fan took house one thing particular: They came upon they received a automotive after being randomly chosen at halftime. Saudi Arabia is one such place.
An hour after the full-time whistle, Ronaldo was escorted out of the stadium by his private safety crew and returned to his luxurious resort, the Kingdom Tower, in Riyadh. The brand new chapter — presumably the ultimate chapter — is formally underway.