Cristiano Ronaldo doesn't look ready for the new season... yet: Six things we learned as Al-Nassr hold Kylian Mbappe-less PSG in pre-season clash

Cristiano Ronaldo Al-Nassr 2023-24
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The Portuguese will likely need to raise his game in 2023-24 given the influx of stars into the Saudi Pro League, but he disappointed against PSG

Cristiano Ronaldo was held scoreless and turned in a drab performance as his Al-Nassr side fought to an uneventful scoreless draw with PSG in their pre-season meeting in Osaka. Chances were rare in this high-profile friendly, with a Kylian Mbappe-less PSG lacking a goalscoring punch, instead turning to a litany of imperfect options and teenagers for attacking production.

Al-Nassr, meanwhile, looked to feed their main man, and he marked a relatively uneventful first half — if only because of his failure to put a chance away. Ronaldo met a floated cross from five yards out, but saw his weak effort thwarted by Gianluigi Donnarumma. He missed a far more speculative chance shortly after, putting a bicycle kick well past the post.

His miscues were the closest either team came for most of the contest. PSG, fielding a mixture of academy players and new signings, were lacking in possession, and never really strung a coherent attacking move together. Marco Asensio had the occasional half-chance, but his like of killer instinct cost Luis Enrique's side.

Ronaldo was removed from play after 65 minutes, slumping off the pitch and acknowledging the smattering of Al-Nassr shirts that stuck out in a sea of PSG fans. This wasn't his finest performance — far from it. Those showings are becoming less frequent these days, especially against tougher competition. And, if nothing else, this served as evidence that Ronaldo will need to raise his game once the competitive action begins.

GOAL looks at what we learned during the clash at Nagai Stadium:

  1. Cristiano isn't ready yet
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    Cristiano isn't ready yet

    Ronaldo, in fairness, joined Al-Nassr when the Saudi Pro League season was well underway last season, and although a player of his quality is expected to quite comfortably dominate a lower-calibre division, there was always going to be something of an adjustment period.

    Not anymore, though. This time, Ronaldo has no excuses. And in Al-Nassr's latest warm-up, the Portuguese didn't have much of an impact. A lot of the typical Ronaldo things were here. He floated around the box, waiting for the right cross or fortunate nick off a PSG defender. He broke out a few stepovers, chops, and turns — few of which were particularly necessary.

    But his impact in front of goal — the thing he is supposed to be on the pitch for — was minimal. PSG certainly did their part defensively, but Ronaldo turned in a poor showing. Even he will need time to find form.

  2. Zaire-Emery impresses again
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    Zaire-Emery impresses again

    Another game, another start for PSG's immensely promising teenager Warren Zaire-Emery. The academy product caught the eye in PSG's pre-season opener against Le Havre, and he was equally impressive here. Deployed alongside Vitinha, he looked far more comfortable than the 23-year-old, who started 29 games for the Parisians last season.

    Al-Nassr have a sneakily good midfield pivot, lining up Marcelo Brozovic and Seko Fofana — an interesting blend of physicality and technique. Zaire-Emery danced around both of them, dictating play and offering an attacking thrust that the Parisians were otherwise missing.

    PSG have five midfielders fighting for three spots in Luis Enrique's XI — with potentially more to come. But Zaire-Emery might just get his chance, and if this was to be his trial, it's hard to see what else he could've done to impress the new manager.

  3. Asensio is not a striker
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    Asensio is not a striker

    Luis Enrique insisted on playing Asensio through the middle during his tenure as Spain manager, despite it yielding minimal results. And he did the same here, asking the winger to function as a sort of false nine for most of the contest.

    The results, once again, were mixed. Asensio was full of energy and movement, and linked up well with PSG's wide players. But his instincts in the final third were lacking; this is not a player who likes to ghost into spaces, or win headers. It is, of course, in these times like these when PSG miss Mbappe, or crave a more direct presence off either wing.

    Still, Luis Enrique looks likely to push on with this experiment, one that hasn't been working for some time now. It is, likely, not the role that the Spaniard signed up for when he left Real Madrid on a free transfer a few months ago.

  4. No Neymar to be found
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    No Neymar to be found

    Neymar underwent significant ankle surgery less than six months ago, and was always going to need time to work his way back to fitness. And even though he seems to be nearing a return, it appears he isn't quite ready yet.

    But he should be back soon. Neymar was pictured in team training this week, and seen smiling from the bench. Still, he never got on the pitch, leaving a bit of uncertainty as to how, exactly, this PSG team will eventually line up. There seems to be a chance that Neymar could operate in a more attacking role, or provide a goal threat in Luis Enrique's side — especially with Mbappe likely gone.

    But it seems that Luis Enrique will have to wait a bit longer before he is able to release his Brazilian weapon. He will undoubtedly be an important addition for this languishing PSG side.

  5. Mbappe was on the pitch!
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    Mbappe was on the pitch!

    But not the one you think...

    Much has been made of the Kylian Mbappe saga, with the French star nearing an exit after informing the club that he doesn't plan on signing a new contract. PSG, in turn, have put him on the market, and accepted a massive bid for his services from Al-Hilal on Monday - although Mbappe has insisted he won't sanction the move.

    And although he has been left at home, his younger brother, Ethan, got a run out here. The 16-year-old is a different type of player, best used as a central midfielder, and he held his own alongside Manuel Ugarte and Marco Verratti, keeping things simple and winning the ball with regularity.

    Mbappe probably won't be a regular for Luis Enrique. It might, in fact, be prudent for the Parisians to send him out on loan. But he was given a chance to impress here, and certainly did his part.

  6. PSG still need a striker
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    PSG still need a striker

    Luis Enrique replaced Asensio with another imperfect option after an hour, turning to youngster Ilyes Housni to play through the middle. An academy product, Housni had a fine goalscoring record in the UEFA Youth League last season, but those instincts didn't translate on Tuesday, as the teenager missed a handful of chances, and failed to set up team-mates on a few occasions.

    Hugo Ekitike seemed the other viable option, but Luis Enrique left him on the bench — despite his impressive showing against Le Havre. The whole thing only heightened the need for a goalscorer in Paris. Mbappe is a lost cause by now, and likely won't wear a PSG shirt again, but the Parisians are reportedly still likely to be busy in the transfer market in the coming weeks.

    Some names have been tossed around, with Randal Kolo Muani and Victor Osimhen among the favourites. But whoever it is, he can't come soon enough for a toothless PSG side.