Cristiano Ronaldo's Al Nassr debut brings loads of methods, however no targets as his newest journey begins


RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Cristiano Ronaldo’s new chapter started with a win, however not a objective, as Saudi Arabia confirmed off the costliest athlete in historical past for the primary time.

Al Nassr beat Ettifaq 1-0 to go prime of the Saudi Professional League, however Sunday evening at Mrsool Park was about nothing else past the Portuguese striker who has signed as much as earn $200 million a yr for the following two-and-a-half years. Aaron Choose’s new nine-year, $360 million contract with the New York Yankees — a latest megadeal in American sports activities — does not even come shut, and regardless that Ronaldo did not handle to search out the online in his first official look, his new membership, the league and the nation will really feel he is already worth for cash.

Shortly earlier than kick-off towards Ettifaq, Al Nassr’s official Twitter account posted: “The world is watching.” Which may not have been the case contemplating this recreation was up towards a top-of-the-table conflict within the Premier League between Arsenal and Manchester United, however there may be no denying the influence Ronaldo has already had. Immediately everybody is aware of Al Nassr and their yellow and blue shirts.

Ronaldo, taking part in for Al Nassr for the primary time after showing in a pleasant towards Paris Saint-Germain on Thursday, continues to be getting used to his new environment and ran out to heat up within the unsuitable half of the pitch earlier than being waved again by his teammates. Ultimately in the precise place, he went by his pre-match routine in entrance of a financial institution of yellow flags and chants of “Ronaldo, Ronaldo,” then two bangs of a drum adopted by “siu!” Once more. Then once more. And once more.

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Al Nassr followers have been made to attend to see Ronaldo of their colors after an English FA ban picked up throughout his time at Manchester United delayed his debut for almost a month. The membership had been reluctant to even acknowledge the suspension, however as soon as supporters labored out Ettifaq can be his first opponent, tickets for the sport offered out inside three hours.

Questions on Ronaldo’s ban aren’t the one ones to have gone unanswered. On Saturday, 24 hours earlier than his debut, there was a gradual stream of followers shopping for Ronaldo shirts from Al Nassr’s Riyadh retailer — they value 364 Saudi Riyals (round $100) — however there was no affirmation of the quantity offered since he signed.

There are additionally questions on the place Ronaldo’s wage is coming from. At his unveiling earlier this month, Al Nassr president Musalli Almuammar recommended vital business offers would rapidly comply with, however there may be but to be any announcement. Officers from the Saudi Professional League say they’ve had no involvement within the switch past accepting his registration, however what is obvious is that final yr, the Saudi Sovereign Wealth Fund (PIF) dedicated $2.3bn in sponsorship agreements with home soccer golf equipment.

Al Nassr bosses count on rival golf equipment to quickly pursue offers for a celebrity of their very own, and Saudi Sports activities Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal has pledged to “support the rest of our clubs for quality deals with international stars soon.”

Within the meantime, although, Al Nassr are having fun with their new icon. His image within the rafters of the stadium was given centre stage alongside supervisor Rudi Garcia, as soon as of Roma, and his each contact towards Ettifaq was cheered no matter whether or not it was good or dangerous. His first two had been poor as he was dispossessed twice, however he quickly settled right into a recreation that had not one of the tempo or depth of a Premier League fixture.

There was loads of time and area for his methods and step-overs, each celebrated by the group, and possibly it is a part of the rationale he is chosen Saudi Arabia.

After struggling to maintain up whereas taking part in for Manchester United or Portugal, he is again to being the very best on the pitch, identical to he was in his prime, though there may be nonetheless a lingering feeling that his presence right here is barely misplaced. It is like LeBron James leaving the NBA to complete his profession within the Chinese language Basketball League, or Tom Brady taking his ultimate snaps someplace in Japanese Europe. Ronaldo is gathering a lot of cash — round $550k a day — however little when it comes to status.

After 5 Champions League titles and 5 Ballons d’Or, Ronaldo will most likely really feel that he does not want any extra, though he does nonetheless have the need to attain. When two of his new teammates determined to see out the ultimate minutes towards Ettifaq with a recreation of keep-ball moderately than crossing into the penalty space, Ronaldo slapped his palms down on his legs in frustration. He wished a debut objective.

“Everyone knows Cristiano Ronaldo, he is one of the best players in the history of football,” mentioned Garcia afterward. “It’s very important for us to do everything possible to put him in the best conditions. I want him to enjoy playing and tonight he was happy to play with his new team.”

Earlier than leaving the pitch, Ronaldo went over to applaud the Al Nassr followers behind the objective who had spent the evening bouncing up and down and waving yellow flags and gave a thumbs-up to girlfriend Georgina Rodríguez as he disappeared down the tunnel. He was adopted by extra chants of “Ronaldo, Ronaldo” and a set of Ettifaq gamers who seemed like they had been eager to take residence his shirt as a memento.

One fan did take residence one thing particular: after being picked at random throughout a half-time prize draw, they found they’d received a automotive. Saudi Arabia is that form of place.

An hour after the full-time whistle, Ronaldo was whisked out of the stadium by his private safety group and pushed again to the plush 4 Seasons Resort in Riyadh’s Kingdom Tower the place he has been staying since his arrival. His new chapter — probably the ultimate chapter — is formally underway.

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