Ronaldo not in squad for first match since Saudi move
Cristiano Ronaldo was not named in the Al Nassr squad for the Saudi team’s first match since the Portuguese star was unveiled as their new signing on a record deal this week.
Ronaldo was not among the players in manager Rudi Garcia’s matchday list for the Saudi Pro League meeting with Al Tai in Riyadh on Friday. The game was postponed by 24 hours after heavy rainfall on Thursday caused electrical issues at the club’s Mrsool Park stadium.
It was unclear if Ronaldo would be available to make his debut with the team, with the forward subject to a two-match ban imposed by the English FA for an incident during his time at Manchester United when he slapped a mobile phone out of the hand of a young fan.
There was conflicting information as to whether the ban would rule Ronaldo out of playing this week, with some reports claiming Al Nassr might be willing to pay any fine that would arise as a result of breaching the FIFA-backed sanction.
Elsewhere, the AFP reported on Thursday that Ronaldo’s debut was potentially being held up by the need for Al Nassr to free up space in their squad due to limits on foreign players.
“Al Nassr has not registered him yet because there is no vacancy for a foreign player,” an unnamed club official was quoted as saying. “A foreign player must leave to register Ronaldo, either by selling or by terminating the contract by mutual consent.”
Ronaldo, 37, has indicated he is keen to get started with his new team as soon as possible after signing a two-and-a-half-year deal which will reportedly be worth up to €200 million ($210 million) a season once commercial rights are factored in.
Al Nassr’s 25,000-seater Mrsool Park home is said to be sold out for the match with Al Tai, but fans will likely only be able to glimpse Ronaldo among those in the stands and will need to wait to see him in action.
Ronaldo was unveiled to the Al Nassr faithful in a glitzy ceremony on Tuesday, where he described himself as a “unique” player who has joined the club on a “unique” deal which is believed to be a record in world football.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner had his contract terminated at Manchester United in November amid the fallout from an incendiary interview with TV personality Piers Morgan in which Ronaldo criticized numerous figures at Old Trafford, including manager Erik ten Hag.
Ronaldo has dismissed suggestions that his move to the Saudi league signals the end of his career, arguing: “In Europe my work is done. I won everything and played for the most important clubs in Europe. This is a new challenge.”
After facing Al Tai on Friday, Al Nassr take on title rivals Al Shabab on Saturday, January 14, and then meet Al Ettifaq the following weekend.