A vehicle drives past a billboard welcoming Cristiano Ronaldo (#7) along a road in Riyadh on Tuesday. AFP
Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo will be greeted by thousands of adoring fans in Riyadh on Tuesday after quitting top-level football for a lucrative spell at Saudi Arabia's Al Nassr.
The 37-year-old, who won the Ballon d'Or five times and whose great rivalry with Lionel Messi dominated world football for well over a decade, will be paraded at his new club's Mrsool Park stadium after jetting in with his entourage late on Monday.
Ronaldo signed his estimated 200 million euros deal to June 2025 just weeks after his departure from Manchester United, following a TV interview where he slammed the club and coach Erik ten Hag.
"See you soon, Nassr fans," Ronaldo said on the plane, in a video posted on Al Nassr's Instagram account.
Ronaldo arrives just weeks after the World Cup in neighbouring Qatar, and as Saudi Arabia considers a joint Asia-Africa-Europe bid to host football's biggest tournament with Egypt and Greece.
Thousands of fans are expected to pack the 25,000-capacity Mrsool Park after the club received more than 130,000 requests for tickets for the unveiling, priced at 15 riyals ($4) with revenues going to charity.
On a cool, wet day in the desert country's capital, billboards saying "Hala (welcome) Ronaldo", and picturing the player in Al Nassr's blue-and-yellow kit, decorated major routes. Police cars and checkpoints guarded the airport when Ronaldo arrived late in the evening before being taken to a five-star hotel in the city centre.
"He brought a big team of assistants and even a private security firm," said a club official who asked to remain anonymous. Excitement is high over the arrival of Ronaldo, the most high-profile player to come to Saudi Arabia, the Gulf or any country in the Asian confederation.
Fans queued down the street 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 signing was made public.
It comes against the backdrop of a Saudi push into sports including golf, boxing, tennis and F1 and football, following the takeover of English Premier League club Newcastle United last year.
Saudi Arabia will host upcoming editions of the Asian Games and Asian Winter Games, as well as football's men's and women's Asian Cups.
Hosting the Olympics is an "ultimate goal", its sports minister told AFP in August, while Saudi is also mulling its joint bid for the 2030 World Cup, officials have said.
Georgina said, “Terrible! I was looking for a cheap apartment, £250 a month, and ended up living in a room that was very cold in the winter and an oven in the summer, and then my life changed when I met Cristiano.”
It wasn't Anthony Joshua but Navas who caught Ronaldo flush in the face with his forearm under a high ball.
The match on Thursday in Riyadh is set to pit Messi's Paris Saint-Germain against a select side made up of players from Ronaldo's new club Al Nassr and their Saudi rivals Al Hilal.
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