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Cristiano Ronaldo signs with Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr

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A month after a tumultuous departure from Manchester United, Cristiano Ronaldo signed with Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr on Friday in a big-money move that probably marks the end of the 37-year-old forward’s storied career playing in Europe’s top leagues.

Ronaldo, a five-time Ballon d’Or winner as the men’s soccer player of the year, joined the Riyadh team on a deal that reportedly will pay the Portuguese star $75 million a year until the summer of 2025.

“History in the making,” Al-Nassr said in a tweet announcing the deal. “This is a signing that will not only inspire our club to achieve even greater success but inspire our league, our nation and future generations, boys and girls to be the best version of themselves. Welcome Cristiano to your new home.”

Ronaldo had been a free agent since parting ways with United by mutual agreement Nov. 22, shortly after he blasted club ownership and Manager Erik ten Hag in a TalkTV interview with Piers Morgan. He subsequently played in all five matches and recorded one goal for Portugal at the World Cup in Qatar, becoming the first man to score in five World Cups. But the aging star’s lack of speed and mobility up front limited the Portuguese attack, and he was benched by since-ousted manager Fernando Santos in the knockout round as his team was upset in a quarterfinal loss to Morocco.

CBS Sports first reported the terms of Ronaldo’s deal with Al-Nassr in late November. Spanish outlet Marca subsequently reported that the contract could be worth as much as $200 million per season when taking into account advertising agreements and other add-ons.

“I am excited to experience a new football league in a different country,” Ronaldo said in a statement. “… 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.”

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Ronaldo began his career with Sporting Lisbon before heading to Manchester for his first stint with United in 2003. The prolific scorer developed into one of the world’s top players over six seasons at Old Trafford, winning three Premier League titles, the 2007-08 UEFA Champions League crown and the 2008 Ballon d’Or. After joining Real Madrid via a then-record transfer in 2009, Ronaldo led the Spanish power to two Liga titles and four Champions League triumphs and won the Ballon d’Or in 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2016.

Following a three-year stint with Juventus, during which he helped the Italian power to two Serie A titles, Ronaldo made a surprising return to United in 2021 and led the team with 24 goals in all competitions last season. But he clashed with ten Hag, who took charge of United in April, and the manager told reporters in October that Ronaldo refused to come on as a substitute in a win over Tottenham before heading to the locker room with time still on the clock.

“I don’t have respect for him because he doesn’t show respect for me,” Ronaldo told Morgan of ten Hag. “If you don’t have respect for me, I’m never going to have respect for you.”

During that interview, Ronaldo also said that he felt “betrayed” by United, criticized the club for a lack of sympathy after his newborn son died in April and claimed that the Glazer family, the team’s American owners, did not care about the club.

Ronaldo now joins an Al-Nassr team that has won nine league titles — most recently for the 2018-19 season — and sits second in the Saudi Pro League at 7-1-2. The squad also features Vincent Aboubakar, a striker who recently captained Cameroon at the World Cup; Luiz Gustavo, a Brazilian midfielder with stints at Bayern Munich, Wolfsburg and Marseille on his résumé; and David Ospina, a Colombian goalkeeper who previously played for Arsenal and Napoli.


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