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30th Jan 2023

Cristiano Ronaldo will return to Europe to end his career, Al Nassr manager confirms

Steve Hopkins

Cristiano Ronaldo Europe

“He will not finish his career at Al Nassr, he will return to Europe.”

Cristiano Ronaldo will return to Europe to finish his career, Al Nassr manager Rudi Garcia has confirmed.

The 38-year-old signed a record-breaking deal with Saudi club Al Nassr – reportedly worth £175m-a-year – after Manchester United terminated his contract in November after he gave a damning interview to Piers Morgan, in which he criticised the club and said he had a lack of respect for Erik ten Hag.

The contract would take Ronaldo past his 40th birthday if he remains in Saudi Arabia, but Garcia says the Portugal captain will finish his playing days in Europe.

Garcia’s league leaders were kicked out of the Saudi Super Cup by rivals Al-Ittihad on Thursday, with captain Ronaldo again failing to score following his goalless debut last Sunday.

“One of the things that changed the course of the match was Cristiano’s missed opportunity in the first half,” the boss said after the game.

“Ronaldo missed a chance on goal that would have turned the game around in the first half but I congratulate Al Ittihad.”

However, he said Ronaldo was a “positive addition, as he helps to disperse defenders”.

“He is one of the best players in the world. He will not finish his career at Al Nassr, he will return to Europe,” Garcia said.

This contradicts reports, including from ESPN, from earlier this month that claimed Ronaldo’s plan was to retire at the club – as suggested by the player himself.

Garcia said Ronaldo’s new teammates shouldn’t be fixated on passing him the ball.

“They (Al Ittihad) were much better than us until the break. So we reacted but we could no longer turn around. We lost the Super Cup but we are still first in the championship.

“It is very important that the players play normally and don’t always try to give Cristiano the ball.

“I told them they had to make the right decisions on the field. Obviously, when Cristiano or Talisca are alone and ask for the ball, we have to give them the ball.

“These two players are capable of making a difference. I think sometimes we had good crossing positions, but there were not enough people in the box, sometimes not Ronaldo or Talisca.

“We have to work on it, have one of them in the area and maybe the other will play outside the area.”

Ronaldo said upon his move to the Middle East that his career in European club football is “over”, declaring: “I am fortunate that I have won everything I set out to win in European football. I feel now that this is the right moment to share my experience in Asia.”

However, during his interview with Morgan, before his Saudi move was confirmed Ronaldo acknowledged he wants to keep playing at the top level.

“If it was just about money, you’d be in Saudi Arabia earning this king’s ransom, but that’s not what motivates you,” Morgan said to the star, before adding: “You want to keep at the top.” Ronaldo, in nodding acknowledgement, responded: “Exactly.”

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