Ronaldo unveiled at Al-Nassr, says he had 'many' chances to join other clubs
The Saudi team signed the Portuguese star to a 2½-year contract worth $75 million per season
Cristiano Ronaldo was officially unveiled Tuesday at his new club Al-Nassr, saying his “work in Europe is done” and that he “had many opportunities” to sign with clubs around the world before deciding to play in Saudi Arabia.
“The evolution of football is different and this isn't the end of my career by moving to the Middle East,” he told reporters during a new conference at Mrsool Park in the capital Riyadh. “For me, I’m really happy to be here and I know the league is competitive.”
The 37-year-old striker did not name the clubs and did not take questions from reporters assembled in the room. He only answered questions posed to him by a team official.
“I want to change the mentality of the new generation and had many opportunities in Europe, Brazil, U.S. and Portugal tried to sign me but I have my word to this club,” Ronaldo said. “I know what I want and I know what I don't want. I want to help many different points and the Al-Nassr’s woman's team. I want to change the perspective of many people.”
At one point, Ronaldo mistakenly referred to his new home as “South Africa.”
Al-Nassr, who plays in the Saudi Pro League, signed the Portuguese star to a 2½-year contract worth a staggering $75 million per season, six weeks after his contract at Manchester United had been terminated following squabbles over lack of playing time.
The contract makes Ronaldo the highest-paid soccer player in the world, although it also takes him out of the spotlight that comes with playing for a top European club.
Ronaldo, considered one of the best players of his generation, will likely close out his career in the Middle East, where he can serve as an ambassador for the game in a part of the world that has gotten much attention after Qatar’s successful hosting last month of the World Cup.
Saudi Arabia is currently interested in hosting the 2030 World Cup. Having a player like Ronaldo playing there could help much in the same way Pele’s signing with the New York Cosmos in 1975 ignited Americans’ interest in the game.
“The evolution of football is different and this isn’t the end of my career by moving to the Middle East,” Ronaldo said. “For me, I’m really happy to be here and I know the [Saudi Pro League] is competitive. I’ve watched many games.”
After the official presentation, Ronaldo suited up and met his Al-Nassr teammates. He gave a short speech in the dressing room through a translator.
Ronaldo is set to make his debut on Jan. 14 in the Riyadh derby away to Al-Shabab.
“My objective for Cristiano is make him happy,” Al-Nassr manager Rudi Garcia said, “and I want him to enjoy playing with Al-Nassr and winning with Al-Nassr.”
A crowd of 25,000 fans greeted Ronaldo, many of them wearing Ronaldo’s No. 7 jersey and waving scarves bearing the Portugal star’s name.
He gave the cheering crowd a thumbs up before saying it “was a pleasure to be here.”
“I want to make people happy,” he told the crowd. “That is my goal.”