When Pelé got here to affix the Latest York Cosmos within the Seventies at the top of his profession, he became by an order of magnitude the largest star ever to play in North America. Now, Cristiano Ronaldo might be filling the identical role within the Middle East.
Ronaldo, 37, one among the world’s best players for nearly 20 years, has agreed to a two-year contract to play for al-Nassr, a team in Saudi Arabia, the club announced on Saturday just after midnight local time. It posted photos of Ronaldo holding a blue-and-yellow jersey and standing with the team president.
Although Ronaldo is within the twilight of his profession, the deal was variously reported as being between 150 million and 200 million euros ($214 million), meaning he’ll enjoy an enormous contract at the same time as he leaves the more competitive world of European soccer behind.
“I’m excited to try a latest soccer league in a distinct country,” Ronaldo said in a press release provided by the team in Arabic. “Al-Nassr has a really inspiring vision, and I’m thrilled to affix my teammates within the club so we may help the team achieve more success together.”
Ronaldo is usually considered to be, together with Lionel Messi, the best player of his generation. He has won the Ballon d’Or, the trophy for the world’s best player, five times, most recently in 2017. Only Messi, with seven, has more. Messi’s victory with Argentina this month within the World Cup in Qatar appeared to cement in lots of fans’ minds his spot at No. 1, with Ronaldo at No. 2.
Ronaldo has excelled at scoring goals for top European teams, including Sporting Lisbon, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus. But he wore out his welcome in his latest spell at Manchester United, leaving by mutual consent in November after somewhat greater than a season. He had clashed along with his manager, fumed over an absence of starts and showed reluctance to play pressing defense.
Such was his fame that even when he was on the bench he tended to capture the headlines moderately than the United players who were making the passes and scoring the goals.
Ronaldo has also been the star of the Portuguese national team for years, leading it to a European championship in 2016. Earlier this month, the team lost to Morocco in a World Cup quarterfinal, and Ronaldo left the sphere in tears after what was almost actually his last World Cup match. He was benched at that tournament, too, after appearing to pout about being substituted in a previous game.
His fame has transcended the sport: He has greater than 500 million Instagram followers, second only to Instagram’s own account.
Al-Nassr, based in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, is one among Saudi Arabia’s top teams, winning the league title as recently as 2019 and sitting second within the table this season. But like nearly every team on the planet, it stands several steps behind the enormous European teams, just like the ones Ronaldo has played for earlier in his profession.
The team is sponsored by Qiddiya, a sports and entertainment company launched by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund in 2018 with a plan to construct an enormous complex outside Riyadh that may include a theme park, a Formula 1 track and a soccer stadium.
Major Saudi soccer clubs are ultimately owned by the state through the Ministry of Sports. Boards of the clubs and their funds have to be approved by the ministry. The federal government has previously said that it planned to denationalise the clubs, but those plans have stalled.
Messi earlier this yr signed a cope with the Saudi government to change into a tourism ambassador for the dominion. With Saudi Arabia keen on bidding for the 2030 World Cup, an event its neighbor and sometime rival Qatar just hosted, having each Ronaldo and Messi related to its project could be seen as a serious coup for its sports ambitions, already exhibited through the brand new LIV Golf tour.
Ahmed Al Omran contributed reporting from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.