Cristiano Ronaldo scored eight in four in February, but he’s not having everything his own way in Saudi Arabia… he had to wait almost a MONTH for his debut, has been throwing constant strops and is still being taunted by Lionel Messi fans!
- Cristiano Ronaldo completed his lucrative move to Al-Nassr in late December
- He has continued to score goals for fun since moving to Saudi Arabia
- However, he has also had a number of frustrating setbacks in the Middle East
It’s been just over two months since Cristiano Ronaldo put pen to paper on the most lucrative contract in football history as he agreed to join Al-Nassr in Saudi Arabia.
The £175m-a-year deal made Ronaldo the highest-paid player in the world, and left fans intrigued as to how he would fare in the Middle East.
Was the 38-year-old just going for a big paycheck and to wind down his career? Or did he genuinely believe that he could make a major impact at his new club and prove that he remains one of the best players on the planet?
There have been glimpses of the Ronaldo that lit up European football for the best part of two decades, but it has been far from plain sailing for the Portuguese star.
Sportsmail takes a look at his opening weeks in Saudi Arabia, and how the move has worked out for him thus far.
Cristiano Ronaldo joined Al-Nassr in late December, and was unveiled a few days later
The long-awaited debut
After Ronaldo signed on the dotted line in late December, fans were eager to see the five-time Ballon d’Or winner in action. But there was some confusion over when he’d actually be allowed to play.
Prior to his acrimonious exit from Manchester United, Ronaldo was handed a two-match ban for knocking a phone out of a fan’s hand during a 1-0 defeat at Everton last April.
Yet there was some uncertainty as to whether this ban would carry over after he had left England.
Al-Nassr’s first game of 2023 was due to be played on January 5, but it was delayed by 24 hours after heavy rain caused electrical problems at their stadium in Riyadh.
Ronaldo had to wait the best part of a month for his debut as he had to serve a suspension
This only added to the suspense of whether Ronaldo would be eligible to feature or not, with Al-Nassr looking at ways to defy his ban that would have risked the club being fined, but in the end he was not named in the squad.
Ronaldo went on to miss their next game as well as he completed his suspension before he finally made his first appearance in Saudi Arabia during an All-Star game against PSG on January 19. Ronaldo scored twice in a 5-4 defeat, and showed few signs of rustiness despite having not played in over a month.
On January 22, 23 days after joining the club, he made his first-team bow for Al-Nassr, and was immediately handed the captain’s armband. He was given a huge reception by the home fans, but couldn’t get on the scoresheet in a 1-0 win over Ettifaq.
Hitting his stride in February
Ronaldo failed to find the net in his first two matches for Al-Nassr, and as we moved into February it looked like he may go three games without a goal when his side were 2-1 down against Al-Fateh late on.
He finally got off the mark in stoppage time, though, converting a late penalty to rescue a point for his team.
That goal appeared to lift a weight off his shoulders, and he rolled back the years to score all four goals in a 4-0 win over Al-Wehda the following week.
Ronaldo showed his class in February as he netted eight goals in four matches for his new club
His performances helped Al-Nassr move to the top of the table by the end of the month
After registering two assists in his next game, he bagged a hat-trick in his final outing in February to finish the month with eight goals in four appearances.
Having made a slow start to his Al-Nassr career, Ronaldo seemed to have clicked into top gear, leading his side to the top of the Saudi Pro League in the process.
Ronaldo makes himself at home
Away from the pitch, Ronaldo needed to sort his living arrangements out after moving to a new country.
One issue that needed to be resolved was whether he would be able to live with his long-term partner Georgina Rodriguez.
Saudi Arabia forbids non-married couples from living together, but Ronaldo was cleared to live with Rodriguez, who he has two children with.
In early January he moved into a 17-room suite that stretched across two floors in Riyadh’s lavish Four Seasons hotel.
But it was pretty clear that this was not going to be a long-term solution, and it was confirmed in February that Ronaldo and his family had left the hotel to move into a place of their own.
This move bodes well for Saudi fans hoping for Ronaldo to stay in the country for years to come, with the striker now making himself at home in his new surroundings.
Ronaldo has never possessed a great poker face, wearing his heart on his sleeve throughout his career, and his frustration has already spilled over on multiple occasions during his short time in Saudi Arabia.
Despite finding the net regularly, Ronaldo and Al-Nassr have suffered some setbacks in recent weeks, and the former United star has struggled to keep his cool.
Al-Nassr lost twice to rivals Al-Ittihad in a matter of weeks, once in the Saudi Super Cup and again in the league, with the latter defeat causing them to drop to second in the table behind their opponents.
The league loss was particularly hard for Ronaldo to take as he was kept quiet throughout the game before missing a late chance to earn a draw for his side as they slipped to a 1-0 defeat.
Ronaldo has lost his cool on a number of occasions when things haven’t gone his way
After the final whistle he stormed off the pitch without acknowledging his team-mates and kicked water bottles on the touchline to show his anger.
On Tuesday, Al-Nassr returned to action, and this time picked up a 3-1 win over Abha to progress to the semi-final of the King’s Cup.
But Ronaldo failed to score again, and he was furious when the referee blew for half time just as he was looking to launch a counter-attack.
Ronaldo booted the ball away and shouted at the referee, leading to him being booked for dissent as he headed for the tunnel.
Fans taunt Ronaldo over Messi rivalry
Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have battled for supremacy for the last 15 years, with fans around the world arguing over who is the better player.
The end of 2022 appeared to tip the scales in Messi’s favour, as he won the World Cup with Argentina while Ronaldo left United after his infamous tell-all interview with Piers Morgan and was then dropped from Portugal’s starting XI in Qatar.
By moving to Saudi Arabia, Ronaldo may have hoped that the comparisons between himself and Messi would end with them playing on different continents, but supporters have not allowed him to forget about his great rival.
Fans have been taunting Ronaldo by chanting Lionel Messi’s name during and after matches
It did not take long for the taunts to begin as Al-Ittihad’s fans chanted Messi’s name following their 3-1 win over Al-Nassr in late January.
They were at it again in the recent league game, and this may have played a part in Ronaldo lashing out at some water bottles by the pitch.
Ronaldo has also had to put up with more brutal assessments of his rivalry with the Argentine playmaker, with a young fan shouting ‘Messi is better’ as he walked down the tunnel at half time of a match earlier this month.
Ronaldo responded by shouting ‘Easy game, f*** easy game’ in Portuguese, and his side went on to win 3-1 against Al-Batin, but it was another reminder that supporters love getting under his skin and testing his patience by constantly mentioning Messi’s name.
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