KIERAN GILL: Why WOULDN’T Cristiano Ronaldo cash in and take £173m-a-year to move to Saudi? He’s 37, could add to his world record goals tally every week and would finally enjoy some privacy
The downsides are obvious. We’ve read enough reports about Saudi Arabia wrapping their tentacles around Newcastle United to know that it would risk damaging the reputation of Instagram’s most followed man.
But for Cristiano Ronaldo, the upsides of a move to the Middle East may outweigh the rest. It is why the superstar without a club is said to be looking at the offer from Saudi side Al-Nassr and thinking: ‘Why not?’
Why not take a prolific payday at 37 years old? We could say he doesn’t need the Saudi suitcases full of cash, but then David Beckham didn’t need to take the Qatari money to be the face of the 2022 World Cup, either.
The upsides of a move to Saudi Arabia may outweigh the downsides for Cristiano Ronaldo
The 37-year-old has been offered an £173m-a-year deal by Saudi Arabian giants Al-Nassr
Sometimes the numbers seem too extraordinary to ignore, even for men of Ronaldo and Beckham status. And the numbers are indeed extraordinary – £172.9million per annum on a two-and-a-half year contract that would enable Ronaldo to play until the age of 40.
No deal has been signed, but the offer of these dizzying figures is there. Word is Al-Nassr have even indicated they would compensate Ronaldo for the £16m wages he would have earned at Manchester United, had he seen out the last six months of his contract instead of a mutual termination.
Why not be guaranteed game-time? Ronaldo didn’t get that under Erik ten Hag at United and that resulted in him throwing his toys out of the pram more than once – the refusal to come on as a substitute against Tottenham Hotspur, the storming out of Old Trafford before full-time in that same game, the interview with Piers Morgan on TalkTV.
The superstar has been struggling for game time at United and refused to come on as a substitute against Tottenham earlier this season
At Al-Nassr, there would be no such problem. No stoppage-time appearances. No bench-warming. Only as many minutes as he would desire and that is what Ronaldo wants. It’s even an added bonus that, according to Al-Nassr’s official website, the No 7 shirt is currently vacant.
The Saudi side have a few recognisable names in the form of former Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina, Brazilian midfielder Luiz Gustavo and Cameroon striker Vincent Aboubakar – the man who scored that delightful scoop against Serbia in the 3-3 draw this week. Yet Ronaldo would be the biggest name of them all, which is the way he likes it.
Al-Nassr’s last home game was a 4-0 win over Al-Fayha. It carried an attendance of 12,763. Ronaldo would be positively adored at the modest 25,000-capacity Mrsool Park, someone who guarantees bums on seats.
Ronaldo would be positively adored at the modest 25,000-capacity Mrsool Park (pictured)
The move would allow Ronaldo to finally get some privacy in Saudi, unlike in most of Europe
Why not leave European football? Ronaldo only needs to sneeze in England and it’s a news story. Yet he may consider the city of Riyadh to be somewhere away from those prying eyes – relative privacy in a world where that is hard to find when you are one of the world’s greatest footballers.
Why not go somewhere less competitive? Ronaldo has achieved all there is to achieve in football.
He’s now looking to add a World Cup to his collection, having told his represenatives to keep him away from the Al-Nassr negotiations while he’s with Portugal. Records would be there for the taking in Saudi Arabia.
Ronaldo is already listed as the game’s greatest ever goalscorer for club and country ahead of Lionel Messi. This would be a chance to add to that total for another two-and-a-half years, at least.
Ronaldo is already listed as the game’s greatest ever goalscorer for club and country ahead of Lionel Messi
The Mail on Sunday’s Oliver Holt has written extensively and eloquently on Newcastle’s Saudi association, which digs deep into the dark side of a shameful state.
By becoming Saudi Arabia’s posterboy, the new star name of the Saudi Pro League, the main man at Al-Nassr, the 37-year-old would risk his name being associated with oppression.
When assessing the reasons why this may be a move too good to turn down, and there are plenty in his mind, not least the money, that is what Ronaldo must consider above all.