Cristiano Ronaldo will seek to give Saudi football global prominence

Cristiano Ronaldo’s new coach spoke of the surprise he received on Tuesday, when he arrived at a room full of reporters.

“Normally after the game there are three or four journalists. Today I don’t know what happened,” said Rudi Garcia, French strategist for Al Nassr, at a press conference to present the Saudi club’s star signing.

Of course, he said it jokingly, and caused laughter from those present.

“It’s a new era!” exclaimed the newscaster Weam Al Dakheel, who during the event asked Cristiano, García and the president of Al Nassr, Musalli Almuammar, despite the fact that there were a hundred journalists in the site.

The arrival of Cristiano, with a contract for two and a half seasons that according to different reports would yield him 200 million dollars a year, will place unprecedented attention in the world of soccer on Al Nassr and the Saudi Pro League.

But at his first press conference, it was not possible to ask Cristiano direct questions. The only interaction of several present with the star consisted of applauding it.

There were also shouts of “I love you, Cristiano” and gestures similar to his celebration known as “Siúuu”.

It was a presentation controlled in detail by a public relations team, which made sure that nothing went off script.

There was something they couldn’t foresee: The star got the country wrong when he said: “For me, coming to South Africa is not the end of my career.”

It will be fascinating to see if Cristiano’s fame sparks interest in Saudi football, beyond his first few weeks in the country.

The Portuguese star has 528 million followers on Instagram, more than any other individual in the world.

And this has already had an effect on the Al Nassr account, whose number of followers has risen from 1.2 million to 8.9 million since last week, when he announced his signing. The number will surely grow more.

Almuammar is convinced that the deal will pay off.

“A lot of people talked about financing. Today that we have a great star like Ronaldo at Al Nassr, we don’t need such financing, ”he stressed. “We have too many sponsors who will work closely with us in the coming years, sponsoring this great deal, and we will have more income commercially and financially, which is important for the league and the football clubs in Saudi Arabia.”

Almuammar did not confirm the value of Cristiano’s contract. However, he considered “normal that he is going to receive the largest in terms of cost and salary.”

The signing, one of the most surprising in the history of football, has raised doubts about the reasons for agreeing on the part of Cristiano and Saudi Arabia, amid accusations that the country continues to use the sport to “launder” its image in all the world.

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The Saudi Public Investment Fund spearheaded the 2021 takeover of Newcastle shares in the Premier League. On Tuesday, English club manager Eddie Howe said reports that there was an option to take Cristiano on loan if the team qualified for the next edition of the Champions League were “not true.”

There is also speculation that Saudi Arabia could launch its bid to host the 2030 World Cup.

The signing of a player considered among the best in history would be another significant step to increase the country’s influence on the world of football.

Cristiano said that the challenge of a new league motivated his arrival in Saudi Arabia. But he also seeks to change the world’s impression of soccer in this country.

“I know the league is very competitive. People don’t know that, but I do because I watched a lot of games, ”he declared.

However, the decision seems like a step backwards for a footballer who has won the Champions League five times and who accumulates five Ballon d’Ors in his showcases.

Now he hopes to win another trophy. Al Nassr is the current leader of the league.

Cristiano’s total tally of 701 goals should add up during his time in Saudi Arabia, even though he hasn’t been able to find his best form this season.

For the thousands of people who flocked to Mrsool Park, Al Nassr’s home, on Tuesday, the only important thing was to take a close look at their sporting idol.

Even during a cold and rainy night in Riyadh, the roads near the building looked crowded. The club’s supporters thronged at the gates, patiently waiting to get in, as if it were match day.

Cristiano, meanwhile, received a rather movie star welcome. He got out of a white Range Rover vehicle with tinted windows, illuminated by countless camera flashes.

His image was projected outside the stadium. Strobe lights added to the special effects.

Wearing a gray three-piece suit and a blue tie, the Portuguese athlete strode to the press conference to applause. Then he took his place.

“I am very proud to make this great decision in my life. In Europe my work is done. I won everything and played with the most important clubs in Europe. This is a new challenge”, stated Cristiano.

Later, he donned the yellow and blue jersey of his new squad and met up with his teammates. He entered the field, between chants that recited his name, fireworks and a smoke.

A player who has lived in the spotlight for most of his career took center stage, holding the world’s gaze.

It remains to be seen how long he will keep it.

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