Jan 4, 2023 - Sports

Cristiano Ronaldo's Saudi Arabia era begins with Al-Nassr


Ronaldo at Tuesday's introductory press conference. Photo: Khalid Alhaj/MB Media/Getty Images

Cristiano Ronaldo was introduced on Tuesday by Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr, which signed him to a contract through 2024-25 reportedly worth as much as $90 million annually.

The big picture: The shocking transfer is already fueling the debate about Saudi Arabia using "sportswashing" to distract from its poor human rights record and boost its image internationally, per AP.

  • The Portuguese star, who has more Instagram followers (528 million) and soccer goals than any other human, immediately raises the profile of both Al-Nassr and the Saudi Pro League.
  • The Riyadh-based club — currently in first place — has seen its Instagram account balloon from 864,000 followers to 8.8 million in the past week while Ronaldo's jersey is flying off the shelves.
  • Ronaldo is reportedly expected to become an ambassador of Saudi Arabia's joint bid with Egypt and Greece to host the 2030 World Cup. Lionel Messi is currently a tourism ambassador for the country.

By the numbers: The deal's sponsorship aspects could bring its value to over $200 million per year, making Ronaldo, 37, the highest-paid athlete in the history of sports — by a lot.

What he's saying: "In Europe, my work is done. This is a new challenge," Ronaldo said during an Al-Nassr press conference. "I am really, really happy to be here."

The backdrop: Though Ronaldo, 37, is inarguably an all-time great, this move comes at the lowest point in his career after an ugly exit from Manchester United and a disappointing World Cup.

What's next: Al-Nassr's next game is tomorrow, but Ronaldo is more likely to make his debut on Jan. 14 in a Riyadh Derby clash against second-place Al-Shabab.

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