By Tom Tapp
Deputy Managing Editor
In a deal that had been rumored for weeks, 37-year-old soccer great Cristiano Ronaldo has signed a massive two-year deal to play for Saudi Club Al Nassar FC. The news was reported by Saudi-owned television channel Al Arabiya and confirmed by a post on Al Nassar FC’s social media accounts by a showing Ronaldo holding his new jersey and the following statement:
History in the making. This is a signing that will not only inspire our club to achieve even greater success but inspire our league, our nation and future generations, boys and girls to be the best version of themselves. Welcome@Cristiano to your new home @AlNassrFC
History in the making. This is a signing that will not only inspire our club to achieve even greater success but inspire our league, our nation and future generations, boys and girls to be the best version of themselves. Welcome @Cristiano to your new home @AlNassrFC pic.twitter.com/oan7nu8NWC
CBS News first reported on the then-in-the-works deal at the end of November, saying it was worth $75 million a year for three years. Many outlets today are still citing that number, but almost all agree it’s a two-year contract that would take Ronaldo to the cusp of his 40s. Some say the total for the deal, with endorsements included, could rise as high as $214 million. According to CBS, the deal includes a home in an affluent neighborhood for the superstar striker. Whatever the case, it’s a LOT of money for a player whose career earnings Forbes estimated earlier this year at $1.24 billion, placing him just behind all-time leader Tiger Woods.
Ronaldo is undoubtedly one of the game’s all-time greats, having won the Ballon d’Or — the trophy awarded to the world’s best player — five times, but consensus is his best years are behind him. That evaluation was made plain by the fact that he, the team’s captain, was came off the bench in Portugal’s World Cup Round of 16 game against Switzerland earlier this month. Ronaldo was also on the bench for the start of the quarterfinal against Morocco. He played in the second half of that game but failed to score. Morocco won 1-0.
In November, Ronaldo left Manchester United after a bumpy second spell with the team in which he publicly criticized the ownership and new manager in a TV interview and refused to come off the bench. As a result, the 37-year-old made just four starts and scored one goal in EPL play this season. His salary was $60 million and he earned another $55 million in endorsements, according to Sportico. While Ronaldo had been plain about his desire to land at a top-flight European team, no such offer was forthcoming.
The idea of playing in the Middle East is one that Ronaldo had previously dismissed.
In 2015, he told an English radio show, “In my mind I want to finish in the top level. I want to finish with dignity so in a good club…It doesn’t mean that to go USA or Qatar or Dubai is not good but I don’t see myself [going].”
Today, he sang a different tune.
“I’m thrilled for a new experience in a different league and a different country, the vision that Al Nassr has is very inspiring,” Ronaldo said in a statement according to CBS. “I’m very excited to join my teammates, and to help the team to achieve more success.”
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