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Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo's Al-Nassr move no surprise as ‘Middle East the future of football’, according to former Juventus team-mate Pjanic

16:55 GMT+3 12/01/2023
Al-Nassr's new Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to Al-Nassr should come as no surprise as “the Middle East will be the future of football”, says Miralem Pjanic.
  • Portuguese superstar now in Saudi Arabia
  • Raising profile of football in the region
  • Bosnian star in UEA with Sharjah

WHAT HAPPENED? The five-time Ballon d’Or winner stunned the world of football when forcing an exit from Manchester United in December 2022, with his contract terminated on the back of an explosive interview. The most lucrative deal in the global game has now been agreed in Saudi Arabia, with Ronaldo taking on a new challenge outside of Europe at 37 years of age.

WHAT THEY SAID: Pjanic, who played alongside Ronaldo at Juventus and linked up with UAE side Sharjah as a free agent last summer, has told Tuttosport of why the Portuguese superstar’s latest adventure makes perfect sense: “It’s a very ambitious club, I am convinced that the Middle East will be the future of football. There are countries with a lot to offer, but their potential hasn’t been fulfilled yet. Surely, football will develop here. This is why I was not surprised by Ronaldo’s decision. Football in Arabia is not as easy as people think. I think he will contribute to the development of the sport in the country.”

THE BIGGER PICTURE: Ronaldo, who is the all-time leading goalscorer in the history of men’s international football, is still waiting on his competitive debut for Al-Nassr after being stung by a two-match ban towards the end of his time in England for knocking a phone out of the hand of a young Everton supporter.

IN THREE PHOTOS:

WHAT NEXT? Ronaldo’s bow in the Middle East is set to come in an exhibition game against Paris Saint-Germain on January 19, meaning that he could once again line up against eternal rival Lionel Messi.