It didn't take long for football fans to raise questions about Cristiano Ronaldo's motivations for signing a potentially record breaking deal with Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr. Ronaldo, who parted ways with Manchester United under acrimonious circumstances during the FIFA World Cup, is set to be paid more than A$300 million through 2025 to take his talents to the Middle East.
Speculation was rife about Ronaldo's next club after he was cut loose by Manchester United. Partly motivated by an ongoing feud between the superstar veteran and United coach Erik Ten Hag, Ronaldo's explosive interview with UK television host Piers Morgan ultimately proved to be the final straw for the Premier League giants.
Ronaldo became the first player to score a goal at five different FIFA World Cups when he scored for Portugal in Qatar, seemingly quick to put his unceremonious exit from the Premier League behind him. His performance lead many to wonder where he would sign next, whether he would chase the kind of lucrative offer from the likes of Al Nassr that he eventually accepted, or find a new club in Europe to continue playing in the Champions League.
This question was put to him by Morgan in their now memorable interview. “Is it also that you want to keep playing at the highest level, that you want to play Champions League football, that you want to keep breaking records?” Morgan asked.
“Again, it comes back to my gut feeling about you. If it was just about the money, you’d be in Saudi Arabia earning this King’s ransom. But that’s not what motivates you.”
Ronaldo replied in the affirmative, stating that he believed he still had plenty of elite football left in the tank. “Because I still believe I can score many, many goals in the top teams because I still believe that I’m still good and capable to help the team and the national team," Ronaldo answered.
Cristiano Ronaldo criticised by Premier League greats over new deal
Describing the 'vision' of Al Nassr as 'very inspiring', Ronaldo said he was looking forward to the challenge of a new club in a new country. However, the eye-watering amount of money changing hands has led to more than a few raised eyebrows.
"I am fortunate that I have won everything I set out to win in European football and feel now that this is the right moment to share my experience in Asia," Ronaldo said in a statement. "I am looking forward to joining my new teammates and together with them help the club to achieve success."
Former Premier League star turned commentator Jamie Carragher said it marked a notable demarcation between the careers of Ronaldo and perhaps one of the few considered to be at or above his level, Lionel Messi. After guiding Argentina to a long-awaited World Cup triumph, Messi has been the toast of the football world, while Ronaldo appeared to be headed to obscurity.
“In some ways it’s a sad end for him,” Carragher said. “Two of the greatest players in Messi and Ronaldo - Ronaldo has finished his career during an interview with Piers Morgan and Messi has won the World Cup. It’s not the best way to go out.”
Fellow former Star Gary Neville was also sceptical of the move, suggesting it must have been hard for the 37-year-old Ronaldo, firmly in the twilight of his career, to turn down such a lucrative deal. Neville predicted Ronaldo would become less relevant in the world game in years to come.
“It tells us a couple of things. One, how serious Saudi Arabia are about football. They aren’t going away. They’ve invested £350m on one player. They are trying to strengthen the league," Neville told Sky Sports.
“But for Cristiano Ronaldo, I felt as though he would want to stay, for the rest of this season at least, in one of the big leagues in Europe and score more goals. Potentially find a Champions League club.
“It tells me that the offer is staggering. Maybe the club that he wanted in Europe didn’t come in for him and this was his option to go for. An element of sadness, in terms of we’ve probably seen the last of Ronaldo playing at the top level."
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