Portuguese football star Cristiano Ronaldo poses for a photo in a T-shirt after signing a contract with Saudi Arabian football club Al Nasr in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 30, 2022.
Al Nasr Football Club / Handout / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo will join Saudi Arabia’s Al-Nasr club team in a deal that will keep him playing until June 2025.
“History in the making,” Al-Nasr Football Club tweeted on its official English-language Twitter account.
“This signing will not only inspire our club to achieve even greater success, but will also inspire our league, our nation and future generations, boys and girls, to become the best version of themselves. Welcome Cristiano to your new home, AlNassrFC.”
The Saudi club quoted Ronaldo as saying that he was “seeking to try out a new football league in another country”.
The 37-year-old Portugal captain is a free agent after leaving major British club Manchester United following dramatic disagreements with some of his management.
The news of Ronaldo’s signing on Friday follows months of rumors and speculation about whether he will join the Saudi team, as more than one of them have made significant offers worth hundreds of millions of dollars. In the summer, Ronaldo turned down an offer from another Saudi club, Al Hilal, which would have given him a contract worth around $370 million over several years. At that time, he decided to stay at Manchester United, saying that he was happy there.
It has been reported in many publications that Ronaldo’s Al Nasr salary is around $200 million a year, including commercial deals, which, if confirmed, would be the biggest salary in the history of the sport.
Noted football reporter Fabrizio Romano described the contract in a tweet calling it “the biggest salary in football history”.
At 37, Ronaldo is in the normal retirement age for a professional footballer, so his signing extends his career and brings significant financial returns. Under Ronaldo’s contract with Manchester United, he earned a mind-boggling $605,000 a week. He is one of the highest paid athletes in history.
The contract with Al-Nasr will reportedly see Ronaldo brings home over $1 million a week.
Al Nasr, founded in Riyadh in 1955, is one of the oldest football clubs in Saudi Arabia and has won nine Saudi Premier League titles. The team’s current manager is French citizen Rudy Garcia, whose resume includes managing top European clubs such as Roma, Olympique de Marseille and Lille.
Cristiano Ronaldo scores from the penalty spot for Portugal during the 2022 FIFA World Cup match between Portugal and Ghana on November 24, 2022 in Doha, Qatar.
Visionhouse | Getty Images Sports | Getty Images
Saudi clubs are known for their ability to offer foreign players big salaries, especially as the oil-rich and conservative kingdom is developing its sports, entertainment and other industries to attract tourism, talent and investment that will help diversify its economy. Saudi Arabia has applied to host the 2030 FIFA World Cup.
Ronaldo is the top scorer in the history of professional football with 819 career goals as of the end of 2022. 118 for Portugal and 101 for Italian club Juventus.
In addition to his football accomplishments, Ronaldo has a massive following on social media, which is likely a big deal for the Saudi kingdom as it seeks to bring more positive attention to the country. Ronaldo became the first athlete to surpass 500 million followers on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other platforms in 2021.
Ronaldo played his last World Cup during the Qatar 2022 tournament, setting a new record by becoming the first person to score in five different FIFA World Cups when he scored the winning goal against Ghana. The Portuguese team was later eliminated from the Moroccan tournament.