Cristiano Ronaldo earns £175MILLION a year, is gifted six-figure watches and is the centre of attention in Saudi Arabia… he may be bitter over Lionel Messi’s eighth Ballon d’Or but he and Georgina Rodriguez are the Gulf’s original power couple
- Cristiano Ronaldo joined Al-Nassr in January after tumultuous Man United exit
- He has been scoring goals for fun but has seen Lionel Messi win the Ballon d’Or
- Is Erik ten Hag out of his depth at Man United? Listen here to It’s All Kicking Off
It has been ten months since Cristiano Ronaldo left European football and became the first of many big stars to make the switch to Saudi Arabia at Al-Nassr.
Many billed the move as, essentially, the end of his days at football’s elite level. With no top clubs interested in taking him from Manchester United – a damning indictment of his fading powers.
It was felt he had little choice but to call time on his Champions League career and accept Saudi’s millions – earning a staggering £175million-per-year.
The standard of football in the Saudi Pro League is improving with the array of elite stars that have since followed but is still underwhelming at best for a player who is unanimously regarded as one of the greatest players of all time.
He started to show a higher level of frustration during his second Manchester United stint, which he is still showing on and off the pitch in Saudi Arabia – particularly in the aftermath of Lionel Messi’s eighth Ballon d’Or win earlier this week, putting him three ahead of his long-time rival.
But anytime he is asked about how life is in Saudi Arabia he always gives a positive response. When looking at the many luxuries and privileges he has been afforded in the Middle East you can see why. He has also returned to scoring form, while his star power off the pitch is shining as bright as ever.
It has been ten months since Cristiano Ronaldo moved to Saudi Arabia to play for Al-Nassr (pictured with partner Georgina Rodriguez and his children)
Though the level of football in Saudi Arabia is not what he is used to, his star power off the pitch is as bright as ever (pictured with girlfriend Georgina Rodriguez at Fury vs Ngannou)
Ronaldo though has regularly shown his frustrations on the field – shushing fans who chanted ‘Messi, Messi’ at him two days after the latter’s Ballon d’Or win
Ronaldo put laughing emojis beneath a post mocking Messi after his Ballon d’Or triumph
The switch to the Gulf nation will have taken a huge level of adjusting not just for Ronaldo, but for his partner Georgina Rodriguez and his five children that have joined him.
The 37-year-old met Rodriguez while playing for Real Madrid and they have two children together – Bella and Alana. Ronaldo also has three other children – Cristiano Jr. and twins Eva and Mateo.
Given his stature in the game, Ronaldo has been treated like a king since moving to Saudi Arabia.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner is staying in an exclusive gated community with round-the-clock security and has received gifts like £630,000 custom-made watches.
His long-time partner Rodriguez, meanwhile, has been a hit on the social scene in Saudi.
Coverage of her social debut at the Joy Awards – is said to have far outweighed that of famous actress Sofia Vergara who had been named ‘Person of the Year’. Tatler reported that Rodriguez has already amassed a huge fanbase in Saudi, with one person describing her as an ‘icon’ before she even arrived.
Ronaldo has also thrown himself into Saudi’s culture by visiting various bars and events, including Dariyah Nights – a shopping, art and music festival – with Minister of Sports Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki al-Faisal. He also attended Tommy Fury’s boxing clash with Jake Paul and most recently Tyson Fury’s crossover bout with Francis Ngannou.
Rapper’s Eminem and Kanye West and former UFC champion Conor McGregor were among the familiar faces at Fury vs Ngannou, but it was Ronaldo who was the star attraction of the evening alongside partner Georgina Rodriguez – even if he was seemingly booed.
Ronaldo was front and centre as Tyson Fury rolled into town ahead of his Saudi showdown
Ronaldo’s girlfriend Georgina Rodriguez has also been a hit on the social scene in Saudi Arabia and was described as an ‘icon’ before she even arrived
Ronaldo has lived like a king in Saudi Arabia, earning a staggering £175m-a-year at Al-Nassr
Ronaldo stays in an exclusive gated community with round-the clock security
Ronaldo also received a custom-made £630,000 Saudi-themed watch from Jacob & Co
The one-of-a-kind timepiece, with a dark-green Saudi theme to represent the country’s flag and its main religion Islam, has 338 extremely rare gemstones embedded in it
Rio Ferdinand, who was also present in Riyadh, talked up ex-teammate Ronaldo’s huge global influence and star power which saw the Euro 2016 winner continually displayed on the big screen over the course of the evening.
‘He’s [Ronaldo] walking into the building with some of the biggest sporting legends ever under one roof and he’s the stand-out superstar in that building,’ the former Manchester United defender told his FIVE YouTube show.
Spanish publication SPORT meanwhile reported that Ronaldo and Rodriguez have broken Saudi law by living together despite not being married.
Like in many other Muslim countries, Saudi law forbids men and women from living together unless they are ‘mahram’ – an Arabic term referring to close family members or spouses.
Given they are yet to officially tie the knot, Ronaldo and Rodriguez appear to have been breaking this law while residing together in their Kingdom Suite.
SPORT quoted two separate Saudi lawyers, the legal professionals expected the relevant authorities to not become involved in Ronaldo’s situation.
One said: ‘Although the laws still prohibit cohabitation without a marriage contract, the authorities have begun to turn a blind eye and do not persecute anyone. Of course, these laws are used when there is a problem or a crime.’
A second added: ‘The Saudi Arabian authorities, today, do not interfere in this matter [in the case of foreigners], but the law continues to prohibit cohabitation outside of marriage.’
Ronaldo was the star attraction at ringside on a night of celebrities including Eminem and Kanye West who were also present for Tyson Fury’s fight with Francis Ngannou in Riyadh
While he has been treated like a king in Saudi Arabia, his long-time rival Lionel Messi has been cementing his status arguably as the king of football.
Lionel Messi’s eighth Ballon d’Or triumph will have hurt Ronaldo. The Al-Nassr star will undoubtedly believe he has been a better player during his career than the Argentinian, but the former Barcelona ace now has three more Ballon d’Or triumphs – as well as a World Cup trophy – over the Portuguese ace.
Opposition fans taunted Ronaldo during Al-Nassr’s King Cup clash with Al-Ettifaq earlier this week, chanting ‘Messi’ at him – just two days after the Ballon d’Or ceremony.
Ronaldo in return shushed the Al-Ettifaq crowd, and his Al-Nassr side had the last laugh with Sadio Mane scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win to reach the quarter-finals.
He celebrated extravagantly and cupped his ears to the away supporters after his team-mate’s stoppage time winner.
Though he showed his frustration during and after the match where he was lucky not to be sent off. He suggested the referee should be substituted after he was adjudged to have been offside which saw his teammate Talisca’s first-half goal ruled out.
He was then booked for dissent and somehow avoided a second yellow card despite his fur, which boiled over at full time as he angry gesticulated and shared stern words with Jordan Henderson.
Messi’s Ballon d’Or win now means he has held the trophy three more times than Ronaldo – while his World Cup triumph last year is something Ronaldo has not been able to accomplish
Ronaldo has lost his temper on numerous occasions while playing for Al-Nassr, most recently angrily gesticulating and sharing stern words with ex-Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson
It is not the first time Ronaldo has lost his temper since moving to Saudi Arabia. He screamed at the referee, shoved a selfie-taking fan and stormed off the pitch in fury after an Asian Champions League win over Shabab Al-Ahli of the United Arab Emirates in August.
The chants aimed at aim during the game with Al-Ettifaq spoke some home truths to CR7. Ronaldo reacted to a video from a Spanish journalist who mocked Messi after his triumph.
Spanish journalist Tomás Roncero posted a video where he said: ‘Hello friends. What we knew happened, they were going to give Messi another Ballon d’Or again.
‘He went to retire in Miami, even though he already looked like he was retired at PSG preparing for the World Cup. He won the World Cup, yes, good, but with six penalties… The World Cup was ten months ago, it’s November.
‘Messi has eight Ballon d’Ors, he should have had five. He has Iniesta/Xavi’s Ballon d’Or, Lewandowski’s who won six trophies in one season and Haaland’s who was the top scorer.’
Commenting beneath the video on Instagram, Ronaldo put four laughing emojis – yet it is unsure what exactly the former Manchester United star means.
A clip in April appeared to show Ronaldo making an obscene gesture to fans chanting Messi though Al-Nassr said it was a reaction to a groin injury
During his first few months in Saudi Arabia, there were reports that he was already unhappy in the country and was seeking an exit as he struggled to adapt to the local culture with the language barrier also providing obstacles.
In April, Rudi Garcia, the coach, left after rumours of a row with Ronaldo and other players over tactics.
There was also some controversy after he was caught on video grabbing his crotch – an apparent reaction to more ‘Messi’ chants – although Al-Nassr said it was a reaction to a groin injury.
Ronaldo has found some differences in Saudi Arabia, previously telling reporters: ‘The biggest change I have found in Saudi is obviously the heat and adapting schedules to train later in the day when it is cooler.
‘But I have really gotten used to that now. The fans here have been incredible to me, welcoming me, and those that follow me to continue on this amazing journey.’
He has also spoken of the league’s need to improve, telling CNN: ‘We have very good teams, very good Arab players, but the infrastructure – they need to improve a little bit more. Even the referees, the VAR system, should be a little quicker.
‘But I’m happy here, I want to continue here, I will continue here.’
It’s no surprise Ronaldo would be happy given his privileges in Saudi Arabia with his £175m-a-year deal seeing him leapfrog Messi, LeBron James and Steph Curry to become the highest-paid athlete in the world.
He has also returned to scoring form during his time in Saudi Arabia following his frustrations at Man United under Erik ten Hag – where he had been relegated to the bench.
Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 28 goals for Al-Nassr since joining the Saudi Pro League side
Ronaldo has scored more goals this season than Erling Haaland (pictured) in the Premier League – albeit, with a significant gulf in quality between the two respective leagues
After scoring 14 goals in 16 Saudi Pro League games last season, he has already matched that tally from 15 games in all competitions this campaign – and could finish with an extraordinary amount of goals given it is his first full season at the club.
He is the top scorer in the Saudi Pro League and has more goals than Erling Haaland (13) – though the Man City striker is playing in what is regularly said as the toughest league in world football.
The standard of football in the Pro League is mediocre at best, marking a significant dip in level for a player who scored an astonishing 450 goals in 438 appearances for European titans Real Madrid. However, world-class competition on the pitch is hardly the selling point of a move to Saudi.
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