Cristiano Ronaldo says Saudi Arabian league is ‘better’ than MLS and rules out return to Europe
Cristiano Ronaldo is not coming to Major League Soccer anytime soon.
Ronaldo was asked if he was following Lionel Messi’s move to the MLS a day after Al-Nassr’s 5-0 defeat by La Liga side Celta Vigo in Portugal on Monday. Ronaldo quickly dismissed the idea and even ruled out a return to Europe.
“The Saudi league is better than the MLS,” Ronaldo said on ESPN.
“I paved the way to the Saudi league and now all the players are coming here,” he added.
Ronaldo reportedly signed a nine-figure deal to join the Saudi Pro League club in December, a move long awaited after his tumultuous Manchester United departure. Ronaldo reportedly earns more than $200 million per season from his games in Saudi Arabia.
The soccer icon is by far the tallest player to join a club in the Saudi Pro League. Since then, several other notable names have followed suit, including Karim Benzema, Marcelo Brozovic, N’Golo Kante and Roberto Firmino. Football is the latest example of Saudi Arabia’s heavy investment in the sport, following attempts in Gulf, Formula 1 and other countries. Critics have derided the effort as a “sports wash.”
At 38, Ronaldo’s career is undoubtedly nearing its end. He played just half of Monday’s friendly defeat in Portugal, the first of two defeats the team will face this week. However, the way he sounded on Monday gives the impression that Ronaldo is more than content to end his playing days in Saudi Arabia. His long history in three of Europe’s top leagues – the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A – is behind him and he doesn’t want to return.
“I’m 100% sure I won’t be returning to any European club,” Ronaldo told ESPN. “I am 38 years old. And European football has lost a lot of quality. The only valid and still good league is the Premier League. They are way ahead of all other leagues.”
Ronaldo’s arrival follows Messi’s introduction to MLS at Inter Miami. Messi, arguably the greatest soccer player of all time, was unveiled in Florida on Sunday. His entry into the league marked a new era for MLS, which has now won its biggest star despite being 36 and also nearing the end of his career.
Inter Miami has a 5-3-14 record, the worst in MLS. Messi is expected to make his game debut for the club in Friday’s League Cup against Mexican club Cruz Azul.