After lighting up soccer’s greatest levels, Cristiano Ronaldo faces a really totally different actuality in Saudi Arabia with smaller stadiums and fewer exalted groups — and a few very excessive temperatures.
Ronaldo, 37, says he’s embracing the “problem” of the Saudi Pro League, a step into the unknown for a player who is more used to Real Madrid’s heaving Santiago Bernabeu stadium or the “Theatre of Dreams”, Manchester United’s Old Trafford.
The transition has been eased by the mixed 400 million euros he’ll obtain in wages from his new staff, Al Nassr, and a separate fee to behave as an envoy for an anticipated Saudi World Cup bid, in keeping with sources near the membership.
But it will likely be an enormous adjustment for the five-time Ballon d’Or winner, who will quickly be working out at modest venues together with the 6,000-seat Al Batin Stadium.
After an exhibition look towards his nice rival Lionel Messi’s Paris Saint-Germain in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Thursday, Ronaldo will make his Saudi Pro League debut for Al Nassr on Sunday.
The 16-team league will take Ronaldo from Dammam on the Gulf coast to Jeddah on the Red Sea, in addition to desert-bound provincial cities comparable to Majma’ah and Hofuf, a hub for Saudi Arabia’s date trade.
– Chartered planes –
While Al Hilal and Al Ittihad, the giants of Saudi soccer, play in 62,000-capacity residence grounds, a handful of Pro League groups have small venues for lower than 10,000 followers, and a few pitches are surrounded by working tracks.
“Sometimes the stadiums will not be in one of the best situation,” Moqbel al-Zabni, editor-in-chief of the Al Riyadiah newspaper, told AFP, cautioning that empty seats are a common sight.
“The attendances that Ronaldo is used to will not exist. We are not used to seeing stadiums full to capacity,” he mentioned.
Ronaldo’s residence floor will likely be Al Nassr’s 25,000-capacity Mrsool Park, which lies on a college campus in Riyadh and was packed for his gala unveiling earlier this month.
Chartered planes will ferry the famous person and his team-mates to away video games, membership sources mentioned, sparing him lengthy coach journeys by means of the desert panorama.
The Pro League season runs from August to May, avoiding the worst of the fierce summer season warmth when temperatures routinely prime 40 levels Celsius (104 levels Fahrenheit).
Even the evenings, when many video games are performed, can stay above 30C (86 Fahrenheit) in August and September, and from March till the top of the season.
“The climate will pose a problem to Ronaldo… however I believe he’ll adapt and excel,” said Saleh al-Khalif, Al-Riyadiah’s deputy editor-in-chief.
– ‘No walk in the park’ –
Saudi Arabia is a number one drive in Asian soccer with six World Cup appearances, together with a well-known victory over Messi’s Argentina on the latest version in Qatar.
Al Hilal and Al Ittihad have won six AFC Champions League titles between them. With Ronaldo, Al Nassr will have hopes of qualifying for this year’s competition and joining their great rivals as Asian champions.
Although the Pro League’s standards cannot match the heights of England, Spain and Italy, where Ronaldo has spent his career so far, it is a competitive division.
The Saudi league was launched in 1976 but in the 14 years since the Pro League became the top tier, there have been six different winners.
Khalif said the league’s “strength and diversity” have been akin to English soccer, insisting it will be no “stroll in the park” for Ronaldo.
The Pro League is packed with 128 foreign players from 48 countries, with each team allowed to sign eight.
At Al Nassr, coached by Frenchman Rudi Garcia, Ronaldo’s team-mates include Colombia and ex-Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina and Brazilian midfielder Luis Gustavo, formerly of Bayern Munich.
Ronaldo’s first task will be to keep Al Nassr on top of the league and secure their first title in four years. But the other teams will be highly motivated to stop him.
“Ronaldo is a legend… and all teams will play to beat Ronaldo,” mentioned Khalif.
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(This story has not been edited by News18 employees and is printed from a syndicated information company feed)