Cristiano Ronaldo, the new prince of Arabia
Cristiano Ronaldo was presented as the superstar new signing of Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr on Tuesday.
The former Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus forward will play in the Saudi Pro League after rejecting offers from Europe, North America and beyond.
“Nobody knows this, but I had many opportunities in Europe, Brazil, Australia, the US, even Portugal, many clubs tried to sign me. I gave my word to this club," Ronaldo said at a news conference where he only answered questions from the master of ceremonies, despite sitting in a room full of journalists.
The 37-year-old Portugal international, who has won five Ballon d'Or awards for the best player in the world and five Champions League titles, will play outside of Europe for the first time in his storied career.
“I'm so proud to make this big decision in my life. In Europe my work is done. I won everything and played for the most important clubs in Europe. This is a new challenge,” Ronaldo said.
The football superstar said that he wanted "to give a different vision" of Saudi Arabia.
However at one point he confused the country with South Africa.
Ronaldo was presented to thousands of fans at Al Nassr's Mrsool Park against a backdrop of fireworks and smoke machines.
Excitement built throughout the day ahead of his introduction, with fans making their way to the stadium early in anticipation of his arrival.
Large video screens on the exterior walls of the ground pictured him in Al Nassr's yellow and blue shirt, alongside the words “Hala Ronaldo.”
When he eventually walked out onto the field at the 25,000-capacity stadium, the crowd chanted his name raucously.
Ronaldo had his contract with United terminated in November after conducting an explosive TV interview in which he criticized manager Erik ten Hag and the club's owners, the Glazer family.
Al Nassr, the 18-time Saudi champions, made an offer to him during the World Cup, which was held in Qatar in November and December.
However, the deal was not confirmed until December 30.
Ronaldo flew into Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport on Monday night, where he and his family were greeted by fans, before undergoing medical tests at Mrsool Park on Tuesday.
The hugely ambitious transfer is expected to heap unprecedented focus on Saudi soccer ahead of a potential bid to stage the World Cup in 2030, as well as on Al Nassr, which is little known outside of Asia.
Ronaldo has agreed a deal reportedly worth up to US$200 million a year — making him the highest paid soccer player in history.