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Ronaldo starts with a win after lucrative Saudi move

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Cristiano Ronaldo made a winning start in the Saudi Pro League by leading Al-Nasr to a 1-0 win over Ettifak on Sunday in his first match since becoming the highest paid footballer in history.

The Portuguese superstar didn’t score, but Al Nasr had promising signs eyeing domestic and continental silver after the 37-year-old offered deals totaling over €400m.

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However, Ronaldo’s league debut was disappointing in front of 22,862 fans after scoring twice this week in a brisk 5-4 exhibition loss to Lionel Messi’s Paris Saint-Germain.

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“He is one of the best players in the history of football, so it is very important for us to do everything possible to bring him to the best possible shape,” said Al Nasr manager Rudy Garcia.

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“I want him to enjoy the game and tonight he was happy to play with his new team for the first time.”

Ronaldo, ahead of Al-Nasr as captain, started low-key in the first half, dropping the ball twice to a cheating attempt as his teammates struggled to pass the ball to him.

Ronaldo’s early shot from the edge of the penalty area was deflected and he narrowly missed a cross by Abdulmajid Al Suleihim, which Anderson Talisca headed Anderson Talisca to score the only goal of the game in the 31st minute.

Soon after, Ronaldo was greeted with cries of “Sioux!” every time he touched the ball, he took a free-kick from a convenient position just outside the penalty area.

Al-Nasr’s front trio began to work in the second half, and Ronaldo set up Piti Martinez and Talisca – after some signature moves – for close moments in quick succession.

A backswing and miss on the bike shot showed Ronaldo understanding of his task, and then he tried to hit from an almost impossible angle after dribbling into the box.

But Ronaldo, watched by his girlfriend Georgina Rodriguez, scored no goals in the win that kept Al-Nasr at the top of the Saudi professional league.

– All the time great –

Ronaldo arrived in oil-rich Saudi Arabia in early January, but his debut was delayed as he served a two-match ban for knocking a mobile phone out of the hands of a supporter at Manchester United.

The move to Saudi Arabia is a step down for Ronaldo, the undisputed great player of all time, who has consistently performed on the biggest football stages and has amassed an incredible array of team and individual accolades.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner is the Champions League’s all-time leading scorer, having won five titles and seven national championships with Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus.

Ronaldo also holds the record for the most goals for the national team – 118 goals for Portugal, with whom he won Euro 2016 – and for his career – 819 goals. Last year in Qatar, he became the first man to score in five World Cups.

His shocking move to Al Nasr came after his second stint at Manchester United collapsed when he criticized the club in a TV interview.

He signed more than €200m, in addition to a separate €200m deal, to act as an ambassador in Saudi Arabia’s bid to co-host the 2030 FIFA World Cup, according to a source close to Al Nassr.

This will further increase the bank balance of Ronaldo, who became the first footballer to exceed $1 billion in earnings in 2020.

Part of its appeal is its massive social media presence with almost 800 million followers on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

However, his translation has been criticized by activist groups, including Amnesty International, who have warned that it is becoming a “Saudi sports laundering tool” for its “terrible human rights record”.



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