JEDDAH: On Jan. 19, 2023, Cristiano Ronaldo performed his first match on Saudi soil since his sensational transfer to Riyadh in a pleasant match between a mixed Al-Nassr-Al-Hilal XI and French champions Paris Saint-Germain.
As destiny would have it, dealing with him was none apart from newly topped world champion Lionel Messi in a match that had been scheduled months earlier than Ronaldo signed for Al-Nassr.
Simply over a yr on from the PSG’s 5-4 win, an damage to Ronaldo has denied followers a reunion of the 2 nice rivals in Thursday night time’s pleasant between Al-Nassr and Inter Miami, dubbed “The Final Dance.”
However in between these two matches, Ronaldo’s affect on Saudi, Arab and Asian soccer, and even the world over, has been seismic.
In his wake, a number of the world’s greatest gamers have joined from a few of Europe’s elite golf equipment, strikes that a couple of years in the past would have been unthinkable.
Al-Nassr’s yellow shirt is now ubiquitous world wide, and the Roshn Saudi League is being broadcast globally in nations that only some years in the past had confirmed little curiosity on this area’s soccer.
And Ronaldo has achieved it whereas remaining on the prime of his recreation, in line with Al-Nassr CEO Guido Fienga.
“Cristiano clearly provides so much in gaining visibility,” Fienga instructed Arab Information throughout a latest dialog in Jeddah. “Cristiano is essentially the most seen man on this planet. However Cristiano nonetheless is the highest participant. He’s the one which has scored extra targets within the league, the one which makes extra assists and positively is the perfect participant within the (Saudi) league and continues to be the perfect participant on this planet as a result of he’s competing in an actual competitors, he’s in extraordinarily fine condition, is a brilliant captain and all of the gamers which might be round him enhance their high quality.
The ex-Roma chief, who joined Al-Nassr in September, praised Ronaldo for believing in Saudi soccer when others scoffed.
“We’ve to acknowledge one factor, Cristiano has been a pioneer, he has been the visionary. When Cristiano got here right here, everybody talked about how he’s going to get a golden pension, a golden retirement.
“No, he has been the one which watched and noticed one thing that others didn’t perceive. It’s the launch of a brand new product. So we have to acknowledge that Cristiano goes past soccer, he has been and nonetheless is the perfect participant on the pitch. However he’s additionally the one participant that has been capable of launch a brand new product (throughout) the world. So he’s gone past soccer. He’s the (chief) and the others are followers.”
Since becoming a member of Al-Nassr, Fienga has seen at first hand the fervour for the sport that has existed properly earlier than the inflow of overseas gamers that Ronaldo sparked.
“It’s actual soccer,” he mentioned. “Saudi’s an actual soccer nation, Center East is an actual soccer area. Right here, individuals reside daily speaking and chatting and watching and discussing soccer. It’s type of like Italy, I come from one other nation of soccer. It’s actual soccer, the competitors (SPL) is an actual competitors.
“In case you see our matches, the matches of Al-Nassr, but additionally many matches of the Saudi League, the present is on the degree of prime championships. This system (SPL venture) is a long-term program. So it’s not a bubble like some need to imagine, or need to say. It’s not a brief venture. There’s a clear venture with a funds, and with a imaginative and prescient extra importantly. This program is a minimum of 10 years as a result of this nation will host the Asian Cup in 2027, the World Cup in 2034, and we have to construct a powerful Saudi soccer motion with sturdy Saudi gamers.
“We’ve lots of Saudi gamers in our group which might be excellent, however most vital, who’re rising very quick,” Fienga mentioned. “So the concept to mix the worldwide gamers with the Saudi gamers within the Saudi Professional League now’s working as a result of I’m recording how briskly the advance of our Saudi gamers is, not solely the nationwide group gamers, however all Saudi gamers. In line with the evaluation of our coach, Luis Castro, who by the best way is a prime coach, he was essentially the most (profitable) coach in 2023. So the phrases of Luis are vital, he has been impressed by the evolution of the Saudi gamers. So the sensation is excellent, but additionally the expectations are very excessive.”
Fienga says that the notion of Saudi soccer the world over, and specifically in Europe, has modified quickly since final summer time.
“Folks at first had been shocked by the doorway of a brand new actor, then they begin to say, perhaps it’s one other bubble. Then they transfer onto one thing that for me is completely improper, the large concern that Saudi soccer desires to compete with European soccer.
“The truth is totally different,” Fienga mentioned. “Saudi soccer is a brand new product. It’s addressing a market that isn’t Europe. Saudi soccer turned the (prime) product in all Center East. However extra vital it turned the second product in an enormous area that (covers) North African nations, Western African nations, a big a part of Asia. So positively Saudi fooball is the primary or second product watched in an space that pulls greater than 3.5 billion individuals, so eight instances Europe.
“Europe can’t be involved that we need to compete with them, we need to develop our personal technique, however on the finish to serve a area that’s a lot bigger than Europe. We’re taking care about ourself and and creating our technique with out feeling competitors with anybody.”