Despite the influx of new signings in the Saudi Pro League over the summer, there is still one player fans want to see in action more than any other: Cristiano Ronaldo. Having arrived at Al-Nassr in January, the Portuguese superstar is ready to embark on a full campaign with the club for the first time.
Ronaldo and his new team came up short in the title race last season, and so he will be determined not to let that happen again. Factor in the famous faces that have now joined him in the league who will be aiming to outshine the five-time Ballon d'Or winner, and Ronaldo should be even more keen to ensure he remains top dog in his new home.
GOAL is here, then, to ensure you don't miss out on any of Ronaldo's displays during his first full season in the Middle East, as we will be casting our eye over and giving an evaluation on how he fares in each of his outings in 2023-24.
Check out our latest grades below, and let us know what you think in the comments section...
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September 22: Al-Nassr 4-3 Al-Ahli, Pro League
The Portugal captain didn't need long to get going, opening the scoring for his side after just four minutes. It was a vintage Ronaldo goal, too, the forward running down the left channel before firing a shot across the keeper and into the far corner.
And it wasn't his only big moment. He should have added a second after eight minutes, lunging to the back post to meet Anderson Talisca's driven cross — and rattling the woodwork with the goal gaping. He followed that by hitting a free-kick tamely into the chest of former Chelsea shot-stopper Edouard Mendy. He added a second shortly after the break, weaving through the Al-Ahli defence, cutting onto his left foot and firing an effort into the bottom corner to give his side a 4-2 lead.
This served as a thesis as to what, exactly, Al-Nassr can do going forward. Talisca also bagged a brace, while Sadio Mane created chaos. The home side will feel that they could have scored six, if their finishing had been cleaner. Things weren't perfect for Al-Nassr. They were admittedly shaky at the back, and conceded a late goal to set up a nervy finish. Still, they have now won seven in a row, and in this kind of form — with Ronaldo firing — don't look like slowing down anytime soon. Grade: A
- Getty Images
September 19: Persepolis 0-2 Al-Nassr, AFC Champions League
A far from ideal display from Ronaldo as Al-Nassr got their Champions League campaign under way. The five-time Ballon d'Or winner looked lost on a day where his side barely scraped by 10-man Iranian side Persepolis. Ronaldo took just one shot in the entire match and completed zero successful dribbles.
It was one of those nights for the 38-year-old, who never found his footing and proved to be more of a hindrance to his sides' attack rather than an asset. He won just two of his seven ground duels and more often than not found himself looking for a foul than continuing the play due to either being beaten or having the ball taken off him.
Persepolis were reduced to 10-men early in the second-half, which allowed Nassr to capitalise with two goals of their own, but Ronaldo played no part in either strike. Despite playing the full 90 minutes, he only had 27 touches of the ball and completed just 12 accurate passes. He was then subbed off in second-half stoppage time. Grade: C-
September 16: Al-Raed 1-3 Al-Nassr, Pro League
Returning from the international break, Ronaldo wasn't shy in trying his luck against Al-Raed, with the Portuguese firing in a number of shots from long-range in the first half in between being the victim of some rough challenges from the home defenders.
His closest effort came when he fired a 18-yard free-kick narrowly wide, but it was left to Sadio Mane to open the scoring with an angled drive in first-half stoppage-time.
Half-time substitute Anderson Talisca doubled Nassr's lead early in the second period with a 30-yard piledriver, and that just seemed to spurn Ronaldo on as he looked to score a spectacular goal himself.
The five-time Ballon d'Or winner eventually got on the scoresheet with 11 minutes left on the clock, cutting inside onto his left foot before driving an unstoppable effort into the bottom corner, before the hosts grabbed a consolation penalty late on and Ronaldo had a potential second ruled out by VAR for offside.
Overall, not the best Ronaldo performance since his arrival in Saudi Arabia, but far from his worst either. Grade: B+
September 2: Al-Hazm 1-5 Al-Nassr, Pro League
Ronaldo was central to just about everything good for Nassr against Hazm, as they recorded a big win.
The first half was without a degree of fluidity for Nassr, but Ronaldo played a key role in the opening goal. Collecting the ball around 30 yards from goal, he drove at the Hazm defence and slid the ball through to Abdulrahman Ghareeb, who finished coolly. It was his fourth assist in four games.
Nassr added a second when Abdullah Al-Khaibari volleyed home from a corner; Ronaldo watched on as he finished at the back post.
Hazm pulled a goal back after the restart but the Portugal superstar was in no mood to allow a comeback.
First, he assisted Otavio for the third goal, squaring to the winger for a tap-in from inside the six-yard box. Ronaldo then scored the fourth himself, getting on the end of some neat interplay in the penalty box and slamming the ball into the top corner.
Sadio Mane added a fifth, with Ronaldo again involved in the build-up.
It was a sparkling performance from the Nassr skipper, who shows no signs of slowing down in the Pro League. Grade: A+
August 29: Al-Nassr 4-0 Al-Shabab, Pro League
Late-career Ronaldo has functioned like this for some time. He spent most of his time making runs or drifting out wide, but seldom got involved in play. Still, the few touches he had were clinical - and emphatic.
The five-time Ballon d'Or winner hadn't had a kick when he was sent to the penalty spot after 12 minutes. And the result was as expected, with Al-Nassr's captain sending the keeper the wrong way with a cool finish.
Ronaldo was unfortunate not to have a second just a few minutes later, seeing a towering header from a corner unluckily ruled out for what was adjudged to be a foul as the delivery came in. But the third time he hit the net, the goal stood. Ronaldo buried his second of the night just before the half, converting again from the penalty spot to give his side a 2-0 lead.
He was involved in the third Al-Nassr goal, too, feeding Mane, who beat goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu at his near post to establish a 3-0 lead. The Portuguese could have buried his third penalty of the night soon after the break but handed the ball to Abdulrahman Ghareeb, who clanged the spot-kick off the post.
Fans will likely be disappointed that Ronaldo didn't grab his second successive hat-trick, but by the time Al-Nassr went up 4-0, he was simply having fun. Out came the back heels, flicks and stepovers. This wasn't the most ruthless version of Ronaldo. Nor was it really the best. But he scored twice, and his team won 4-0 against a local rival. It's hard to ask for more.
- Getty Images
August 25: Al-Fateh 0-5 Al-Nassr, Pro League
This was Ronaldo in his element. The 38-year-old was firing on all cylinders. Pushing forward as a direct goal threat when he saw the opportunity or making the sensible pass to link up with his team-mates, he was impossible for the home team to handle here.
His assist for the opening goal was classic CR7. The ball was played straight to him and he knew exactly what to do - instantly backheeling it into the path of Sadio Mane. The timing and the weight were perfect and the Senegal star could not fail to find the net.
Almost immediately afterwards, Ronaldo forced his way into a great position to score, only to send his effort wide. He would not have to wait long to get his goal, though, as he was perfectly placed to leap into the air and nod Sultan Al-Ghannam's cross into the net to make it 2-0.
The ex-Real Madrid and Manchester United star did not stop there, though. He kept pushing and was side by side with Abdulrahman Ghareeb, who played it beyond the goalkeeper and found Ronaldo to slot into the open goal to make it 3-0.
He even played a vital role in Al-Nassr's fourth goal - charging towards the defence and sucking them into his orbit before he knocked it wide to Ghareeb, whose cross found Mane's head and bounced in.
Ronaldo wasn't done there, however. He snuck into the box, free of his marker and was fed through before burying into the bottom corner to complete his treble. Grade: A
- Getty Images
August 22: Al-Nassr 4-2 Shabab Al-Ahli, AFC Champions League
For a long time, it looked like being one of those nights for Ronaldo.
Against Shabab Al-Ahli, he saw three penalty shouts turned down in the first half alone. One of them was a stonewall spot kick, with the opposition defender quite clearly using his hand to block the forward's spectacular, goalbound volley.
It resembled something you might see in volleyball, but the referee remained unmoved, much to Ronaldo's disgust. This bizarre decision threatened to headline another hugely frustrating night, but, led by Ronaldo, Al-Nassr recovered their composure to triumph in the tie.
Unlike against Al-Taawoun the previous week, the Portuguese legend put in a solid performance in his side's AFC Champions League play-off. Yes, he did miscue the odd chance, but by and large he desperately tried to pull his side out of the mire.
And he got his just rewards at the death, laying on the assist for Marcelo Brozovic's game-clinching goal in second-half stoppage time. Grade: B-
- Getty Images
August 18: Al-Nassr 0-2 Al-Taawoun, Pro League
As Ronaldo was slipped through in the dying stages of Al-Nassr's clash with Al-Taawoun, it seemed he was going to redeem himself after an underwhelming evening in Riyadh. Instead, he saw his close-ranged effort cannon back of the inside of the post. And, to add insult to injury, a few moments later the offside flag was raised.
This summed up a torrid night for Ronaldo and Co, as they slipped to a second shock defeat in four days. After missing the game against Al-Ettifaq through injury, Al-Nassr's star attraction would have been desperate to get the season back on track.
But he ended up being a hindrance to his team. It's debatable whether he should have even played. He certainly didn't look fit, often well off the pace of his side's attacks and was caught offside several times. He took out his frustrations on the officials at regular intervals, but this defeat had little to do with the referee.
There's still plenty of time for Ronaldo's side to turn things around, but with an AFC Champions League play-off to come before their next league clash against Al-Fateh, things do not get any easier in the coming week. Grade: D-
August 14: Al-Ettifaq 2-1 Al-Nassr, Pro League
Oh dear. A far from ideal start to Al-Nassr's title bid, but none of the blame can be laid at Ronaldo's door as he sat out the Saudi Pro League opener through injury. It's clear his team missed him too.
Things began well at least, with new signing Sadio Mane scoring four minutes into his league debut with a poacher's effort. Unfortunately for Ronaldo, that was where the fun stopped, with goals from Robin Quaison and Moussa Dembele giving Steven Gerrard's side a 2-1 victory. Grade: N/A