As Cristiano Ronaldo’s first season in Saudi Arabia comes to a conclusion, the Portuguese star spoke with the Saudi Pro League media channel about his first months in the nation… and also about the future, where he hopes to win trophies with Al-Nassr.
Many were astonished that Ronaldo chose to retire from professional football in Saudi Arabia after leaving Manchester United under a cloud, but it may have been due to a lack of genuine offers from Europe’s major leagues for the aging superstar.
Despite the unfavorable perception of the transfer, Ronaldo confesses that the reality of moving to Al-Nassr caught him off guard.
“Well, my expectation was a bit different, to be honest, I was hoping to win something this year, but it is not always as we think or as we want,” Ronaldo explained to the Saudi Pro League media channel.
“Sometimes we need passion, consistency, persistence, and determination to achieve the best. I still believe that next year we will improve a lot, let’s say that in the last five or six months the team has improved a lot.
“Even in the league itself all the teams have improved.”
Rumors of alleged unhappiness have perhaps been distorted out of proportion of late, especially when Ronaldo visibly reacted angrily to his team failing to win the title, yet he remains committed to the project.
“Sometimes it takes time, but if you believe and believe in your goal, I think everything is possible,” he added.
“I was hoping to win something this year, but we didn’t… but next year I am very positive and confident that things will change, that we will go in a better way.
“So, let’s believe that, and let’s work on that.”
The Saudi league is still expanding.
When asked about football in Saudi Arabia versus Europe, Ronaldo was diplomatic in his response, preferring to focus on the future of the Saudi Pro League.
“The league is very good, but I think we have many, many opportunities to keep growing,” he continued.
“The league is competitive. We have very good teams, very good Arab players. But they need to improve the infrastructure a little bit more. Even the referees, the VAR system… they should be a little bit faster.
“I think there are other little things they need to improve. But I’m happy here, I want to stay here, I will stay here. In my opinion, if they continue to do the job they want to do here for the next five years, I think the Saudi league can be one of the top five leagues in the world.”
Ronaldo has also had to adjust to the time of day that training takes place, as the environment is not favorable to early-morning activity.
“One example is that in Europe we train more in the morning, but here we train in the afternoon, or at night… and in Ramadan we train at 10 o’clock at night.”
“This is very strange, but as I say, these situations are part of an experience, memories. I like to live these moments because you learn from these things.
“It’s difficult, but it’s nothing I haven’t seen before. My experience so far is that Saudi fans really love football.”
Ronaldo believes that joining a squad that already has Anderson Talisca and there is a rumor that both Lionel Messi and Karim Benzema would sign up for the Saudi league this summer is a positive thing.
“If big players and big names come, young players, veteran players… they are very welcome because if that happens, the league will improve a little bit.”