Cristiano Ronaldo described himself as a “unique player” and insisted his career was not over while receiving a thunderous welcome at his new club, Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia.

The Portuguese superstar, 37, said on Tuesday he had done everything he could in Europe and was hungry for a new challenge when he was greeted by fireworks and deafening roars at Al Nassr’s Mrsool Park stadium in the capital Riyadh.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner, with five Champions League titles to his name, is signed for an estimated €200 million until June 2025, not long after his acrimonious split with Manchester United.

“Coming to Saudi Arabia is not the end of my career. This is why I change and, to be honest, I really don’t worry about what people say,” said Ronaldo.

“In Europe, my work is done… I had a lot of offers in Europe, a lot in Brazil, Australia, the US, even in Portugal,” he added. “Many clubs tried to sign me, but I gave my word to this club.”

The packed 25,000 capacity stadium erupted as Ronaldo, dressed in the yellow and blue Al Nassr kit, walked onto the pitch and saluted the crowd as fireworks and floodlights flashed around him.

His girlfriend Georgina Rodriguez, dressed in the traditional black abaya or all-over robe worn by most Saudi women, followed at a distance along with Ronaldo’s children.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s family attends the official unveiling as a new member of Al Nassr football club in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia [Amr Nabil/AP Photo]

“I’m a unique player. It’s good to come here, I broke all the records there [in Europe] and I want to break some records here,” Ronaldo said earlier.

“I come here to win, to play, to enjoy, to be part of the success of the country and the culture of the country,” he added.

Al Nassr coach Rudi Garcia said the signing of Ronaldo was a huge step for the Saudi Arabian league.

“In my life I’ve seen that great players like Cristiano are the easiest to manage because I can’t teach him anything,” Garcia told reporters. “Like he said, we are here to win, nothing else. I want him to enjoy playing with Al Nassr and winning with Al Nassr, just that.”

Ronaldo joins the nine-time Saudi champion just weeks after leaving United after a TV interview in which he criticized the club and coach Erik ten Hag.

‘Greatest player in the world’

Al Nassr, the nine-time champion of the Saudi league, represents a significant drop in standards for the Portuguese striker, who led title-laden campaigns with United, Real Madrid and Juventus.

Othman Al Twaijri, a football analyst, said the signing of Ronaldo will inspire the Saudi league to achieve greater success.

“The amount of investment in Saudi football…in the kingdom has been huge and I think it will only increase from here,” Al Twaijri told Al Jazeera.

“They’re going to try to bring in big names – who knows, maybe we’ll get Messi… [or] any of those players you would normally see going to the old China, the old Qatar, or… the United States of America,” he said, referring to Argentine footballer Lionel Messi.

Al Twaijri said he expects the Saudi league to become one of the “top 10 in the world” by the year 2030, the year Saudi Arabia expects to have implemented a plan that aims to diversify the kingdom’s economy and reduce dependence on oil. .

Ronaldo arrives just weeks after the World Cup in neighboring Qatarand as Saudi Arabia considers a joint bid by Asia, Africa and Europe to co-host the biggest football tournament with Egypt and Greece.

Well before his arrival, supporters came to the stadium with yellow ‘Ronaldo 7’ flags and blue and yellow Al Nassr scarves, some looking for tickets.

Excitement is feverish over the arrival of Ronaldo, the most prominent player to come to Saudi Arabia, the Gulf or any country in the Asian confederation. [Amr Nabil/AP Photo]

Adam Seddik, an Al Ittihad fan from Jeddah, said he drove 900 km (560 miles) to Riyadh to witness the spectacle.

“His presence will increase the value of the Saudi league and viewership,” Seddik said. “He’s the best player in the world.”

Excitement is feverish over the arrival of Ronaldo, the most prominent player to come to Saudi Arabia, the Gulf or any country in the Asian confederation.

Fans lined up to buy Ronaldo’s Al Nassr shirt with his trademark number seven, and Al Nassr’s Instagram page gained millions of new followers after his autograph was made public.

Ronaldo’s signing comes amid a Saudi push into sports such as golf, boxing, tennis and F1, as well as football, following the Saudi takeover of English Premier League club Newcastle United last year.

Saudi Arabia, led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, will host the upcoming editions of the Asian Games and the Asian Winter Games, as well as the men’s and women’s Asian Cups.

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