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02nd Jan 2023

Al-Nassr coach admits he wanted to sign Messi before Cristiano Ronaldo

Steve Hopkins

Messi Ronaldo

‘First I tried to take Messi’

Cristiano Ronaldo‘s new coach has admitted with a laugh that he wanted to sign the star’s main rival, Lionel Messi, after his World Cup win for Argentina.

At a press conference, Al-Nassr boss Rudi Garcia was asked about Ronaldo’s arrival in Saudi Arabia on a Ā£175million-a-year deal, and replied: “First I tried to take Messi.”

Garcia then erupted with laughter.

Al-Nassr announced the arrival of the Portugal forward on Friday, with Ronaldo being pictured holding the team’s yellow and blue short with his trademark No 7 on the back. He will also take on anĀ ambassadorial role to promote Saudi Arabia’s bid to co-host the 2030 World Cup.

Following the termination of his Manchester United contract, Ronaldo, 37, had been a free agent.

Garcia, formerly of Roma, Marseille and Lyon, took charge at Al-Nassr in June and has insisted that “the great players are the easiest to manage” ahead of Ronaldo’s arrival.

Ronaldo will join the club following an explosive interview with Piers Morgan, and after fall-outs with Erik ten Hag at United and Portugal coach Fernando Santos at the World Cup.

Garcia told AS: “I think that any coach would be delighted to train a great star like Cristiano and already in November 2021 I was very close to going to United.

Messi Ronaldo

“They chose Ralf Rangnick, but I met twice with John Murtough and Darren Fletcher [United’s director of football and technical director respectively].

“I came very close to coaching this club and was very motivated to go, who wouldn’t be motivated to coach United? Any coach. United’s simple interest has allowed me to be sure of my ambitions in the future.

“I have always thought that the great players are the easiest to manage because they are very intelligent, I verified this with Francesco Totti at Roma.”

Al-Nassr fans have already displayed just how excited they are about Ronaldo’s arrival by snapping up replica shirts and chanting his name in the stands.

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