Arabian Nights: Ronaldo to Saudi


Five time Ballon d’Or winner, Cristiano Ronaldo marks a new era by joining Saudi Arabian team Al-Nassr after leaving Premier League’s Manchester United in what is considered a big money move. 

On Nov. 22, soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo and soccer club Manchester United announced a contract termination and that they will be parting ways due to a “mutual” agreement said in a statement put out by the club. In the statement, the parting will have “immediate effect” and it made Ronaldo a free agent. 

The contract termination is following a bombshell interview with British broadcaster Piers Morgan. In the interview, Ronaldo expresses his disapproval of the team’s management and how he felt betrayed by the team. Ronaldo first joined Manchester United at the age of 18 and quickly proved his worth. Throughout his first run at Manchester United, he became known as a superstar in soccer. Ahead of the 2009-10, Ronaldo made the switch over to the Spanish soccer league, La Liga, and joined the famous team Real Madrid. Playing with the team till 2018, Ronaldo moved over to an Italian team from 2018 to 2021. Then in Aug. 2021, Ronaldo came back to his first team, Manchester United. 

Coming back to his old team, Ronaldo thought “everything will be different …the technology, the infrastructure, everything,” said in his interview with Piers Morgan. Instead he was faced with the same things he left the team for back in 2009, “‘I was surprised, in a bad way, in that way…I saw everything was the same.’” Even before the interview, fans knew and could tell that things between the team and player were not going well. 

Following his leave from Man United, it was rumored that Ronaldo would join Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr which many predicted would be a “big money” move. Then on Dec. 30, Al-Nassr announced, through social media, that Ronaldo would be joining their team and he signed a contract till June of 2025. Al-Nassr will most likely be his last club of his soccer career. Ronaldo’s justification for joining the team was “I give the word to this club for the opportunity to develop not only the football, but the other part of this amazing country, and for me it’s a good challenge.” Al-Nassr has won the Saudi Arabian league, Saudi Pro League, nine times and is currently first in the league.

While the team didn’t officially disclose the financials of the contract, it is reported that Ronaldo will be guaranteed 75 million dollars a year but has the chance to make up to 200 million when taking in commercial agreements. This would make him one of the highest paid soccer players of all time. 

On Jan. 3, the club welcomed Ronaldo and his family during a ceremony at their home stadium. The ceremony marked a new era for Ronaldo and his career. The stadium was packed with excited fans who are happy with the addition of Ronaldo. Not only are fans excited, the team and the country itself are excited over Ronaldo’s addition. Ronaldo, who many consider one of the greatest soccer players of all time, brings good press to the team and the country. To have a superstar player like Ronaldo, it shines a light on the country and team. Since Ronaldo’s signing was announced, the Al-Nassr instagram gained 10 million new followers. With Ronaldo joining, the team hopes to win another domestic league title and even a chance at winning the AFC Champions League. This is also a win for the country itself due to the Saudi government wanting to expand their sports and entertainment industries. Not only will this add to the sports of the country, it will also bring some more positive light to Saudi Arabia. The country is often criticized for the infringements of subjects that are considered human rights such as women’s rights and LBGTQ+ rights. Having a star player in the Saudi league takes light away from those issues and attempts to redirect it to something that can be seen as positive. 

Reportedly the country is willing to bend some laws for the player. Under Saudi Arabian law, unmarried couples are not allowed to live together in one house, which is a problem for Ronaldo and his longtime girlfriend Georgina Rodríguez. According to reports, the Saudi government is willing to “turn a blind eye” on their relationship status meaning they will be permitted to live together despite not being married.

Despite Ronaldo already being welcomed, he will have to wait a bit before he can star in his first match for his new team. Due to a two match ban, which was obtained during an incident while at Man United, Ronaldo’s first game for the team is expected to be on Jan. 19 which is a friendly against French team PSG. The two match suspension was following an incident in which Ronaldo smacked a phone out of a fan’s hand and he was given a suspension as a punishment alongside a fine.