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02 October 2023

Cristiano Ronaldo reflects on first season with Al Nassr and new life in Saudi Arabia

By E247

Cristiano Ronaldo, the five-time Ballon D’or winner of Portugal and one of the most successful footballers of all time, has shared his thoughts on playing and in living in Saudi Arabia in his first full interview since joining AlNassr Football Club in January 2023. 

The interview, which is published exclusively on the Saudi Pro League social channels (Twitter & Instagram) comes at the end of the current Roshn Saudi League season, with Ronaldo’s Riyadh club claiming second place following a closely fought battle for the title with new champions Al Ittihad of Jeddah.

Speaking openly about his time on and off the pitch in Saudi Arabia, the Portuguese star was quick to look to the positives and building towards next season despite the disappointment of losing out on the title. 

Cristiano Ronaldo said; “Well, my expectation was a little bit different, to be honest I expected to win something this year, but it is not always the way we think or the way we want, sometimes we need passion, consistency, and persistence to achieve the best things. So, I still believe that next year we will improve a lot, let us say in the last 5 or 6 months, the team has improved a lot, even the league, all the teams improved.”

“It takes time sometimes, but if you believe and you think it is your goal, I think everything is possible. I expected to win something this year, but we didn’t, but next year I am really positive and confident that things will change, and we go in a better way. So, let us believe that and work on that.”

Since his signing in January 2023 and taking on a new challenge, Ronaldo has featured extensively in the Saudi Pro League and made a significant contribution to the club’s performances. Over 16 league matches since joining he has scored 14 goals during 1,701 minutes of game time. 

Speaking of his experience on the pitch and the overall standard of the league in Saudi Arabia he said: “The league is very good but I think we have many many opportunities to still grow. The league is competitive. We have very good teams, very good Arab players. But they need to improve a little bit more the infrastructure. Even the referees, the VAR system, should be a little quicker. I think other small things they need to improve. But I am happy here, I want to continue here, I will continue here. And in my opinion if they continue to do the work that they want to do here, for the next five years, I think the Saudi league can be a top five league in the world.” 

Answering what he believes the biggest challenge he has faced on his move to Saudi, Cristiano Ronaldo said:  “One example is in Europe we train more in the morning, but here we train in the afternoon, or evening and in Ramadan we train at 10 at night - so this is so strange, but as I tell you these situations are part of an experience, memories. I like to live these moments because you learn with these things. It is difficult, but it is nothing I have not seen before. My experience so far is that Saudi fans they really love football and like to live the life and it is good and I am so happy until now.”

Saudi Pro League Executive Vice Chairman, Saad Allazeez recently said of Cristiano Ronaldo: “The arrival of Cristiano into the Saudi Pro League always had the potential be one of the most impactful and transformational in football history. And that’s proves to be case. He is special footballer and a special person whose impact is goes far beyond football. The ‘Cristiano Effect’ has definitely been felt. This season had been our biggest yet, with more spectators on match days, more followers and global viewing than ever before. The Saudi Pro League is now aired by 48 platforms and TV broadcasters in over 170 countries worldwide and attendances of AlNassr matches have doubled year on year since Cristiano signed.” 

“Saudi Arabia is already a football obsessed nation with over 80% of Saudi Arabia’s men and women either playing, attending or following football. Recent developments include the establishment of a professional women’s premier league and women’s national team and school girls league with 50,000 playing each week. And thanks to new growth in the league’s popularity I’m sure other big names will look to follow in Cristiano’s footsteps and join the brilliant young home grown talent who play in our league.” 

Asked on what he would say to any player who is planning to join the Saudi Pro League, Cristiano Ronaldo stated: “If they are coming, big players and big names, young players, ‘old players’, they are very welcome because if that happens, the league will improve a little bit.”

Talking about the overall experience and family life in Saudi Arabia away from the pitch he added: “Living in Saudi is very good. If you want to come here, to have fun, to see the culture, to eat good. The Saudis live more in the night which I think is quite fun and interesting. If you see the city during the night, it’s very beautiful. And if you like food, come to Riyadh, the city probably has some of the best quality restaurants I have come across.”

“The most beautiful experiences I’ve had here was when I was in Boulevard World, it was something I really enjoyed. I brought all my family there. But so far, it has been a very good experience. The family are happy. The kids’ school are very good. And things that the country is building for the future. I like to see different things, try different things and this is why I am here as well. The next trip that I want to see is AlUla. I wanna go as I know it’s very beautiful. And we travel around the country, you see many good places.”

In a final message to his fans around the world, Cristiano Ronaldo added: Thank you very much for supporting me every day here, not only in the games or in the stadium, but of course, outside in the streets and the places that I go. And I will be part of your world, your culture, I will be here, I hope I make the people enjoy through my games, my performance, and to win things, but again, thank you for welcoming me, and I will try to give my best during the time that I will be here.