Al Nassr missed out on the Saudi Pro League despite Ronaldo’s presence. Here is how?
Saudi Arabia has made significant progress in boosting the popularity of the sport in the last year. A major achievement came in late 2022 when it was disclosed that Cristiano Ronaldo would be joining Al Nassr, a team in the Saudi Pro League, for the second half of the 2022/23 season and beyond.
The league aims to attract several prominent players this summer as its rise in prominence continues. The country’s ultimate objective is to host the 2030 World Cup, and the potential addition of Lionel Messi, Ronaldo’s renowned contemporary rival, would undoubtedly support their cause.
Although Ronaldo, now reflecting on his prime with a sense of sadness, few anticipated that the 38-year-old would face difficulties in the Middle East after losing favor at Manchester United. At the time of his signing, Al Nassr were leading the Saudi Pro League, but Ronaldo’s team finished the season without any trophies as they narrowly missed out on the title race.
The 2022/23 season of the Saudi Pro League will come to an end on May 31st, but the champion has already been determined.
Al-Ittihad, led by manager Nuno Espirito Santo, has secured the title, while Ronaldo’s Al Nassr will finish in second place. Nuno Espirito Santo, the former manager of Wolves and Tottenham, joined Al-Ittihad before the start of the current season and guided them to their ninth Saudi championship, which is their first since 2008/09.
In the previous six seasons leading up to 2022/23, Al Hilal had won five titles, with Al Nassr last clinching the championship in the 2018/19 season.
Nuno’s team, Al Ittihad, emerged as champions after a 3-0 victory against Al Feiha on Saturday. With a four-point lead over Al Nassr as they approach the final day of the season, their previous narrow win against Ronaldo’s team in March played a vital role in securing their eventual title triumph.
During his inaugural season in the Middle East, the experienced superstar has experienced a combination of successes and setbacks.
Although Ronaldo continues to display his goal-scoring prowess with 14 league goals in 16 games, his consistency as a player has been questionable following his recognition as the league’s Player of the Month in February. Criticisms have arisen regarding his disappearance during certain matches, notably his underwhelming performance in the crucial loss against Al Ittihad in March. Furthermore, despite Al Nassr being in a favorable position to contend for three trophies upon Ronaldo’s arrival, they were unable to secure any silverware during the 2022/23 season.
Al Nassr faced disappointment with semi-final eliminations in both the King’s Cup and Saudi Super Cup, ultimately surrendering the league title to Nuno’s Al Ittihad.
In April, Rudi Garcia was relieved of his managerial duties, and it is believed that Ronaldo did not share a positive rapport with the former Lyon boss. At times, the veteran has allowed his petulance to overshadow his game, enduring chants of “Messi!” from opposing fans when playing away matches.
Nonetheless, the situation is not entirely bleak. While Ronaldo was unable to lead Al Nassr to the championship, his mere presence has made a profound impact on his teammates. He has raised the standards of training within the club, motivating players to prioritize their fitness and nutrition.
Off the field, Ronaldo’s arrival has brought about a significant transformation in Al Nassr’s social media following. Since his signing was confirmed, the club has gained nearly 14 million Instagram followers. Overall, this deal extends beyond Ronaldo’s on-field performance. It represents a crucial step towards elevating Saudi football to mainstream prominence, especially considering their potential hosting of the 2030 World Cup.