Ronaldo scoreless in debut Saudi league win

Tuesday 24 Jan 2023

Ronaldo scoreless  in debut Saudi league win


CRISTIANO Ronaldo could not score in his first official game with his new club, but Al-Nassr beat Ettifaq 1-0 anyway to recapture first place in the Saudi league on Sunday.

Brazilian midfielder Talisca scored the lone goal in the 31st minute from a header which was a bit too high for the Portuguese captain who played the entire 90 minutes.

Al-Nassr, which have played 14 games, moved a point ahead of defending champion Al-Hilal which have played a game more.

At 37, Ronaldo joined Al-Nassr last month in a deal that will reportedly earn him $200 million a year and which runs until 2025. It would make him reportedly the highest paid athlete in history.

In a career in which he starred in the world’s most famous football clubs, including Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus, Ronaldo’s presence on a team and in a league not watched on a global scale is undeniably odd.

But following an explosive TV interview shortly before the World Cup in Qatar in which Ronaldo said he did not respect the United coach and the club’s owners after having been repeatedly benched, he became a free agent. He said he had rejected offers from Europe and elsewhere before settling on Al-Nassr.

Ronaldo, one of history’s greatest players, was greeted by banners and cheers from his adoring fans at King Saud University Stadium in Riyadh drawn to his superstardom. As the season progresses he will most likely continue to attract spectators in the tens of thousands in stadiums and millions on TV.

Sunday’s game came a few days after Ronaldo scored twice in an exhibition game in Riyadh with a joint Al-Nassr and Al-Hilal squad against French champions Paris St-Germain who featured World Cup winner Lionel Messi.

The friendly, won by PSG 5-4, thus saw two of the greatest players of all time sharing a pitch together in a renewal of their storied rivalry for possibly the final time. Both players were substituted off just after the hour mark.

Also showcased by PSG was World Cup runner-up Kylian Mbappé, Brazil’s Neymar and former Real defender Sergio Ramos.

In front of 68,000 fans at King Fahd International Stadium, Ronaldo struck twice, both in the first half. His first came from the penalty spot after colliding with PSG goalkeeper Keylor Navas, a clash that left Ronaldo with an angry red-coloured bruise on his cheek.

The second was his initial header hitting the post before reacting quickest to convert. Ronaldo showcased his trademark celebration for both goals with the crowd joining in.

Meanwhile, PSG scored four goals while playing a man short, which says something about the quality of Saudi football.

Ronaldo and Messi briefly shook hands but a warmer greeting was expected by the two all-time greats whose rivalry has been among the greatest ever.

Between them they have 12 Ballon d’Or awards — Messi a record seven, Ronaldo five — and have won a combined 56 major trophies. Ronaldo won the European Championship in 2016, but Messi helped Argentina win the Copa America in 2021 and most recently the 2022 World Cup, his first, which might have strengthened the case that he is the best ever.

Ronaldo is the all-time leading scorer in men’s international soccer with 118 goals, while Messi’s seven at the World Cup took him to third overall with 98.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 26 January, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

Short link: