Cristiano Ronaldo ended his first season at Al Nassr without a trophy but he has made major impacts in the League as well as on the streets.
His new team Al Nassr is set to end in the second place in the Saudi Pro League behind Al Ittihad who were crowned Champions.
That means that Ronaldo will not add to the seven league titles won in England, Spain and Italy over the course of his career.
Cristiano Ronaldo on the pitch was very impressive for the Riyadh-based club as he bagged 14 goals in 16 league games.
Al Nassr managed to qualify for the Asian Champions League next season, but failed to match the consistency and defensive prowess of Al Ittihad.
The head coach of Saudi Professional League team Abha, who lost 2-1 to Al Nassr in March with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring the equalizer, Roel Coumans, said: “In some matches, he stood out; in others, he didn’t, but we all know what he can do.”
“Al Nassr have some very good players who can help and he needs support but there is no doubt that he raises the level of the team.”
There have been some disorder since the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo to Al Nassr which saw Rudi Garcia leave the club. Reports had it that Ronaldo was not happy with the Frenchman’s tactics and methods he employs in his trainings and matches.
There is no doubt that Ronaldo led the team, despite not winning the league, he kicks himself anytime his team fail to win a game.
Sasi Kumar, a former Singapore international and now CEO of Madrid-based sports marketing company D+1, said: “Not enough attention is paid to his teammates and how he has changed the [competitive] mentality of the dressing room and the club.”
He also went on to add that: “I would love to be his teammate and see how a world champion behaves and prepares.”
Saudi football officials are hoping behind the scenes that their league will not only become the clear number one in Asia but also one of the best in the world.
Cristiano Ronaldo has reiterated several times that the Saudi Pro League could be one of the best in the nearest future.
After Cristiano Ronaldo Scored a spectacular winning goal against Al Shabab on May 23, he said: “The Saudi league is getting better, next year will be even better.”
“Step by step, I think, this league will be in the top five leagues in the world but they need time, they need players, they need infrastructure. But I believe this country has amazing potential. They have amazing people and the league will be great in my opinion.”
Roel Coumans, the current manager of Saudi Arabian club Abha, also confirms that he sees a league heading in the right direction.
“It’s difficult to imagine [top 5] happening but it is a nice ambition,” he went on to add.
“When you look from the perspective of that goal, then you need this kind of exposure. The arrival of top-class foreign players will make a difference. The standard is definitely improving,” he concluded.
Ronaldo’s presence in the Saudi pro league means that speculations about Lionel Messi joining the league will be taken to heart.
Regardless of Messi moving to Saudi Arabia, a number of top-rated players are expected to join the league this coming summer.
Despite the rise in standards, Coumans is till concerned about the possible negative consequences for Saudi players as there is set to be an increase of foreign players to eight that can be fielded in coming season.
Coumans added that: “If you want to be in the top five then you need these kind of stars but you also have to look at the development of Saudi football.”
“The young players will learn from the big stars but if they are not playing every week then they can’t develop as they wish,” he concluded.
Saudi Kids Now Wants To Play Like Cristiano Ronaldo
Ronaldo has made the most noticeable impact off the pitch with Al Nassr becoming one of the most talked about clubs in the world.
Sasi Kumar also confirmed that: “In Spain, I now see a lot of kids wearing Al Nassr Ronaldo kits and that’s a testament to the business success.”
Pat Janssen, CEO of Al Shabab from 2017 to 2018 confirmed that Ronaldo’s move made waves for Al Nassr saying: “It’s raised their profile beyond their wildest dreams.”
“TV rights for his matches alone are a commercial success.”
Reports also have it that the Saudi Pro League’s league game rights have been sold to 36 international broadcasters.
Ronaldo’s presence is not just about football, Saudi Arabia looks to tap into the awareness he is bringing to position itself as a major sporting hub and diversify an economy historically reliant on oil.
This move by Saudi is aimed at increasingly hosting sporting events such as Formula One, golf tournaments, boxing and wrestling matches.
But recent reports have it that Cristiano Ronaldo is unhappy at Al Nassr and has struggled to adapt to the Saudi culture and language barrier.
Ronaldo might move out of the league in the summer, but his presence has enriched the country’s sports branding and put them better on the sporting map.