The new chapter for Cristiano Ronaldo began with victory rather than a goal as Saudi Arabia debuted the most expensive sportsperson in history. For the best sports betting casinos of January 2023, make sure you pay a visit to CasinoDaddy!
Al Nassr defeated Ettifaq 1-0 to take the top spot in the Saudi Pro League, but Sunday night at Mrsool Park was all about the Portuguese striker who agreed to a two-and-a-half-year contract for $200 million a year. Even if Ronaldo failed to score in his debut for his new team, the league and the nation will believe he is already worth the money, even though Aaron Judge's new nine-year, $360 million contract with the New York Yankees, a recent megadeal in American sports, doesn't even come close.
The world is watching, Al Nassr's official Twitter account wrote just before kickoff versus Ettifaq. There is no disputing the impact Ronaldo has already made, even though that may not have been the case given that this game was scheduled to play against an Arsenal-Manchester United top-of-the-table matchup in the Premier League. All of a sudden, everyone is aware of Al Nassr and their blue and yellow jerseys.
Ronaldo is still getting acclimated to his new surroundings and races out to warm up on the wrong part of the field before being waved back by his teammates. This is the first time he has played for Al Nassr after making an appearance in a friendly match against Paris Saint-Germain on Thursday. When he was finally in the proper spot, he performed his pre-game ritual in front of a bank of yellow flags and cries of “Ronaldo, Ronaldo,” then two drum beats and the word “siu!” Again.
Because of an English FA suspension, he received while playing for Manchester United, Ronaldo's debut at Al Nassr has been delayed by over a month. Tickets for the game sold out in less than three hours as fans realized Ettifaq would be his first opponent, despite the club's initial reluctance even to accept the suspension.
Not all queries about Ronaldo's suspension have received a response. There was a constant stream of supporters purchasing Ronaldo jerseys from Al Nassr's Riyadh store on Saturday, 24 hours before his debut; they cost 364 Saudi Riyals (about $100), but there has been no confirmation of the quantity sold since he joined.
Concerns exist over Ronaldo's source of income as well. Significant business partnerships will soon follow, Al Nassr president Musalli Almuammar said during his introduction earlier this month, although nothing official has been announced as of this writing. The Saudi Sovereign Wealth Fund (PIF) invested $2.3 billion in sponsorship deals with local football teams. Saudi Pro League officials claim they had no involvement in the move beyond recognizing his registration.
Al Nassr is nevertheless enjoying their new symbol in the meanwhile. His image was prominently displayed in the stadium together with manager Rudi Garcia, a former member of Roma, and every touch he made against Ettifaq received applause, whether it was successful or not. His first two were terrible since he was twice taken out of the game, but he eventually got into a game that lacked the pace and intensity of a Premier League match.
He had plenty of time and room to do his stunts and step-overs, and the audience enthusiastically applauded each one. Perhaps this explains in part why he selected Saudi Arabia.
He's back to being the best on the field, exactly as he was in his heyday, after failing to keep up when playing for Manchester United or Portugal, albeit there is still a residual sense that his presence here is a little out of place. It's comparable to when LeBron James retired from the NBA to play in the Chinese Basketball League or when Tom Brady played his final snaps in Eastern Europe. Ronaldo makes a lot of money ($550k per day on average), but not much in the way of status.
Ronaldo will likely believe that he doesn't need any more awards after winning five Champions League championships and five Ballons d'Or, but he still wants to score. Ronaldo slapped his hands down on his thighs in anger as two of his new teammates elected to play a game of keep-ball to pass the remaining time against Ettifaq rather than cross into the penalty area. He desired his first aim.
Before leaving the field, Ronaldo saluted the Al Nassr supporters behind the goal who had been dancing and waving yellow flags all night. He also gave his girlfriend Georgina Rodriguez a thumbs up as he walked down the tunnel. More “Ronaldo, Ronaldo” cries, and a group of Ettifaq players who appeared eager to take his shirt home as a memento followed him.
One fan did leave with a gift, however: after being chosen at random during a halftime draw, they learned they had won a vehicle. Such a place is Saudi Arabia.
Ronaldo was transported back to the opulent Four Seasons Hotel in Riyadh's Kingdom Tower by his security team one hour after the last whistle. He had been staying there since his arrival. His latest chapter, which may also be his last, has begun.