After finalising a shocking transfer for an estimated 200 million euros, Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo will be introduced to thousands of supporters at Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr club on Tuesday, a spokeswoman said.
According to club spokesperson Al-Walid Al-Muhaidib, the 37-year-old great and five-time Ballon d’Or winner would arrive late on Monday with his family, media, and technical staff.
On Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. (1600 GMT), Ronaldo, who left Manchester United under fire after disparaging the team in a TV interview, will appear at Al Nassr’s 25,000-seat Mrsool Park stadium in Riyadh, according to authorities.
This follows Portugal’s elimination from the World Cup in neighboring Qatar in the quarterfinals, the most recent and potentially final chapter of an outstanding career.
The oil-rich Saudi Arabia has recently entered the worlds of golf, Formula One, boxing, and Ronaldo’s contract which lasts until June 2025. They have also acquired English team Newcastle United.
The tactic has been termed “sportswashing” by detractors as an effort by the conservative nation to divert attention from its human rights record.
One official who didn’t want to be identified because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media said that Al Nassr expects the stadium to be packed for the unveiling.
Ronaldo is by far the most famous player to have played in Saudi Arabia, but other legends like George Weah, Pep Guardiola, and Xavi all spent time there in their later years of fame.
The nine-time league winners from Saudi Arabia, Al Nassr, dubbed Ronaldo’s signing “more than history in the making,” asserting that he will motivate the rest of the league and perhaps even the entire nation.
Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, the Saudi Arabian minister of sports, promised in a tweet that he will “help the rest of our clubs for great agreements with worldwide talents shortly.”
After an inflammatory interview in which Ronaldo claimed to feel “betrayed” by the club and had no regard for coach Erik ten Hag, United canceled Ronaldo’s contract during the World Cup.
The Portuguese attacker, who had made an estimated 31 million euros at Juventus before taking a wage reduction to re-join United, has long been one of the highest-paid players in sport.
Ronaldo has won league titles in Italy (2019, 2020) with Juventus, in Spain (2012, 2017) with Real Madrid, and in England (2007, 2008, 2009) with United in addition to five Champions League championships (2008, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018).
In addition, he leads the Champions League and the Portuguese national team, where he won the 2016 Euro, in goals.
With his penalty in the group-stage victory over Ghana in Qatar, he made history by becoming the first player to score at five World Cups.