The move marks the first time Ronaldo plays for a club outside of Europe, where he has gathered several titles.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s prior remarks criticising Xavier Hernández, or Xavi, for “playing in Qatar” have resurfaced after the Portuguese confirmed his move to Saudi Arabia.
With an estimated annual salary of £177 million, the 37-year-old has agreed to a two and a half year contract with Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr despite previously expressing interest in playing in the Champions League and dismissing a future outside of Europe.
However, the star player is now a target of his own previous statements regarding a career in the Middle East. In 2016, when Xavi said that he “doesn’t compare” to Lionel Messi, Ronaldo responded promptly.
Talking to the reporters at the time, Ronaldo said: “Yesterday I saw that the most searched for player on the internet is me. So when a player or manager want to appear on front cover of newspaper they speak about me. It’s normal, I’m like a promotion.
“What does it matter to me what Xavi says? Xavi plays in Qatar or used to, I don’t know. He’s won everything but he’s never won a Ballon d’Or. I have three. So I don’t care what he says,” as per reports.
In what has been seen as ‘hypocrisy’, Ronaldo had also denounced a career in the region on other occasions. In 2015, when he made an appearance on The Jonathan Ross Show, he dismissed the idea of concluding his career somewhere other than Europe.
“In my mind, I want to finish in the top level,” he said. “I want to finish with dignity in a good club. That doesn’t mean going to the USA, Qatar, or Dubai, is not good. But, I do not see myself [there].”
Users online were quick to remind the superstar player of his old remarks, with one such person saying: “If you remember how Ronaldo slandered Xavi for going to Qatar and said he will retire with dignity in Europe. Life comes at you fast bruh, stay humble.”
Many also pointed that it was convenient for Ronaldo to make those remarks from a peak position at his career, however as his journey began to decline, choices had to be made accordingly. “Ronaldo made fun of Xavi for playing in Qatar and now he’s going to Arabia because no one wants him,” a Twitter user argued.
Another underlined the ‘hypocrisy’ that is being spotlighted after Ronaldo’s decision to transfer his career to the Middle East by providing a clip of his interview with Piers Morgan.
“Piers Morgan: ‘If it was just about money, you’d be in Saudi Arabia earning this king’s ransom, but that’s not what motivates you. You want to keep at the top.’ Cristiano Ronaldo: ‘Exactly.’
That was a month ago,” the person wrote.
Others took a different approach and spoke on the familiarity of such move in the footballing industry by pointing at world-renowned players.
“Maradona ran away to Argentina at 33 Ronaldinho ran away to Brazil at 31 Messi ran away to France at 33 Pele ran away to USA at 35. But Ronaldo going to Saudi at 38 is where we draw the line.. ok man,” one such user said.
The move marks the first time Ronaldo plays for a club outside of Europe, where he has gathered several titles, including five Champions League wins; three in the Premier League twice in La Liga and twice in Serie A.
The Portuguese superstar will play for the Saudi club until 2025, according to reports. In a statement announcing the move, the club said this is “history in the making”.
“This is a signing that will not only inspire our club to achieve even greater success but inspire our league, our nation and future generations, boys and girls to be the best version of themselves,” the statement added.
Ronaldo said he is thrilled for the move to the Middle East.
“I’m thrilled for a new experience in a different league and a different country, the vision that Al Nassr has is very inspiring,” said Ronaldo.
“I’m very excited to join my teammates, and to help the team to achieve more success,” he added.
Riyadh-based Al Nassr is currently the second top club in the Saudi Pro League standings, positioned just two points behind Al Shabab.
Rumours of his move to Saudi Arabia first emerged in Saudi and Spanish media earlier this month, following a messy end to his time at Manchester United.
Ronaldo’s World Cup exit caps a turbulent few weeks that began with an explosive interview with Piers Morgan and ended with the termination of his contract at Manchester United, as well as rumours of the move to Al Nassr.
The football icon was also rumoured to be in talks with a Qatari club.