Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo will be unveiled to thousands of fans at Saudi Arabia‘s Al Nassr club on Tuesday, a spokesman said, after sealing a stunning move estimated at more than 200 million euros.
The 37-year-old great, a five-time Ballon d’Or winner, will arrive on Monday night with his family along with the media and coaching staff, club spokesman Al-Walid Al told AFP.
Ronaldo, who left Manchester United under a cloud after criticizing the club in a television interview, will appear at the 25,000-capacity Mrsool Park stadium in Riyadh at 7:00 pm (16:00 GMT) on Tuesday.
The latest chapter, and possibly the last, in an illustrious career comes weeks after Portugal‘s World Cup quarterfinal elimination in neighboring Qatar, where great rival Lionel Messi lifted the trophy with Argentina.
Ronaldo’s signing until June 2025 is just the latest foray into top-level sports by oil-rich Saudi Arabia, which has moved into Formula One, boxing and golf and snapped up English club Newcastle United.
Critics have dubbed the strategy “sports laundering,” an attempt by the conservative country to divert attention from its human rights record.
Al Nassr expects a full stadium for the opening, according to an official who did not want to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Ronaldo is by far the biggest star to have played in Saudi Arabia, although other heavyweights including George Weah, Pep Guardiola and Xavi also had stints in the rich Gulf in the twilight of their careers.
Al Nassr, the nine-time Saudi league champion, called Ronaldo’s signing “more than just a story in the making”, saying he will inspire the rest of the league and even the country.
In a tweet, Saudi Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal pledged to “support the rest of our clubs soon for quality deals with international stars.
United terminated Ronaldo’s contract during the World Cup after an explosive interview in which he said he felt “betrayed” by the club and had no respect for manager Erik ten Hag. The Portuguese striker has long been one of the highest-paid players in football, earning a €31m salary at Juventus before taking a pay cut to join United.
Ronaldo has won five Champions League titles (2008, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018), league titles in Italy (2019, 2020) with Juventus, in Spain (2012, 2017) with Real Madrid and in England (2007, 2008, 2009).
) with United.
He is also the top scorer in the Champions League and for the Portuguese team, with whom he won Euro 2016.
In Qatar, he became the first man to score in five World Cups with his penalty in the group stage win over Ghana.