Football world taken aback by Cristiano Ronaldo's 'staggering' move

Cristiano Ronaldo will be paid upwards of $300m through 2025 after signing an eye-watering deal with Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr.

Cristiano Ronaldo poses with his new jersey and a club representative from Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia.
Cristiano Ronaldo has signed a deal with Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr worth more than $300 million, which will see him through until 2025. (Photo by Al Nassr Football Club / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Cristiano Ronaldo has inked a deal with Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr for a reported 200 million euros (A$314 million) in what looms as potentially the most lucrative sporting contract ever signed. A free agent following the FIFA World Cup, during which he scored a goal for Portugal, Ronaldo's new deal has been met with scepticism from some in the football world.

Ronaldo was cut loose from Manchester United during the World Cup, amidst a deteriorating relationship with the Premier League club which culminated in the 37-year-old trashing the club in an interview with Piers Morgan. His deal with Al Nassr will carry him through to 2025, with some observers surprised the football great did not aim to land at a more competitive club.

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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.”

Cristiano Ronaldo's Saudi Arabian move met with criticism

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.

Cristiano Ronaldo is pictured playing for Portugal during the FIFA World Cup in 2022.
Cristiano Ronaldo became the first player to score goals at five different FIFA World Cups during the tournament in Qatar earlier this year. (Photo by Eric Verhoeven/Soccrates/Getty Images)

“I think we could have continued to see it at Old Trafford had both parties handled things differently. That had to come to an end - it had to close before the World Cup. It was an inevitability in the end.”

Ronaldo will arrive in Saudi Arabia with a vast collection of club honours after a glittering spell at Spanish giants Real Madrid from 2009-18 where he won two La Liga titles, two Spanish Cups, four Champions Leagues and three Club World Cups. He scored a club record 451 times for Real and has more than 800 senior goals overall for club and country.

Ronaldo claimed two Serie A titles and a Copa Italia trophy in three years at Juventus before rejoining United - with whom he had previously won three Premier League crowns, the FA Cup, two League Cups, the Champions League and the Club World Cup. He played for Portugal in Qatar, where he became the first player to score in five World Cups after netting a penalty in his side's opening Group H game against Ghana. Portugal were knocked out in the quarter-finals by Morocco.

Ronaldo said Qatar would probably be his last World Cup as he plans to retire at 40, with the move to Saudi Arabia likely to mark the swansong in the career one of the game's greatest current players.

With AAP

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