Saudi club makes audacious bid to sign Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United

Saudi club makes audacious bid to sign Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United
Cristiano Ronaldo is the leading international goalscorer in history with 117 goals for Portugal. (AFP)
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Updated 14 July 2022

Saudi club makes audacious bid to sign Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United

Saudi club makes audacious bid to sign Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United
  • The unnamed team is reported to have offered $300m to sign the Portuguese legend

Saudi Arabia caused shockwaves on Thursday morning amid international media reports that an unnamed club in the country has offered around $300 million to sign Cristiano Ronaldo on a two-year deal.

The 37-year-old has made it clear that he wants to leave Manchester United, with talk of his next club dominating discussion during the summer transfer market. 

There have already been some big signings this summer that make the next season of the Saudi Professional League (SPL) an exciting prospect. Al-Nassr, under new coach Rudi Garcia, have moved quickly to bring in David Ospina and Ghislain Konan and have been linked to Miralem Pjanic of Barcelona. Champions Al-Hilal boast a host of stars in their team, Al-Ittihad is looking to rebuild under new Portuguese coach Nuno Espirito Santo and Al-Shabab also has major ambitions.

Ronaldo may be aging and, in relative terms, not the all-round force he once was, but he is still a supreme professional as demonstrated by his 18 goals in the English Premier League in the season just completed.

The former Juventus man would easily be the biggest star to ever play in Asia.

He is the leading international goalscorer in history with 117 goals for Portugal. He scored over 300 goals for Real Madrid despite playing fewer than 300 games for the Spanish giants. He has won league titles in England, Spain and Italy and five UEFA Champions Leagues. He has also won FIFA’s Ballon d’Or award five times. It is an incredible record and shows why he is regarded as one of the best to ever play the game.

Off the pitch, his status is on a different level to any other player in Saudi Arabia, the continent and the rest of the world. His signing would take the SPL to a new worldwide audience. This is a man who has an incredible 466 million followers on Instagram. That makes him not only the most followed footballer on the platform but the social media platform’s biggest account. 

The idea of the player turning out for one of the giants of Saudi Arabian football such as Al-Hilal, Al-Shabab, Al-Nassr or Al-Ittihad is an amazing prospect. It is not just about the big teams but also the idea of Ronaldo playing against the smaller teams. Every game would be a major event and would be watched by millions.

Fans can only imagine how Ronaldo would have fared in Saudi Arabia last season with the tense and dramatic title race coupled with an epic relegation battle. It would have been a massive advertisement for the SPL and would surely have won the competition new fans everywhere. 

In terms of sponsors and corporate involvement, there would be massive deals and then his presence and the excitement it would bring would surely serve as an inspiration for youngsters to play football and more people to come to the stadiums.

That is all possible next season. There could also — depending on the club he might join — be the chance of Ronaldo taking part in the Asian Champions League knockout stages early next year, with the Portuguese legend possibly helping an Asian team win the Club World Cup for the first time.

The big question, apart from where the money would come from, is whether it is realistic to expect Ronaldo to come to Saudi Arabia, though the prospect of him playing in a region with fewer games and an upcoming World Cup may be attractive. He may not be willing to leave Europe and it is telling that his desire to leave United after just one season back at the club has come after the Red Devils missed out on a UEFA Champions League place.

Another barrier is that Manchester United have said that the player, who has not gone with the club on a tour of Thailand and Australia, is not for sale. Bookmakers in England have listed the most likely destination, if the player does leave Old Trafford, as Chelsea, though the Blues’ coach Thomas Tuchel has stayed tight-lipped on whether he is interested.

It may not be up to him. Even if United are prepared to let their star go, and that is still a big if, then an English Premier League competitor and probable rival for a Champions League place next season may not be an acceptable destination. Bayern Munich are second on the list and then there is a chance of an emotional return to Sporting Lisbon, the club where it all started.

This was before the bombshell of Saudi Arabian interest was dropped however and at the moment it is still early days. The huge sums mentioned mean that everyone is going to take notice, including the player and his agent Jorge Mendes. Whether Cristiano Ronaldo wants to play in Saudi Arabia remains to be seen but the stories generated just by the mere suggestion that he could show that it would be quite a ride.


Mbappe double sinks Denmark and takes France into World Cup last 16

Mbappe double sinks Denmark and takes France into World Cup last 16
Updated 6 sec ago

Mbappe double sinks Denmark and takes France into World Cup last 16

Mbappe double sinks Denmark and takes France into World Cup last 16
DOHA: Kylian Mbappe scored twice, including a late winner, as holders France edged Denmark 2-1 on Saturday to become the first team to reach the last 16 of the World Cup.
A potent French side knew a second victory in as many Group D outings would take them through to the knockout phase and they were well worth the lead that Mbappe gave them when he opened the scoring at Stadium 974 just after the hour mark.
However, Andreas Christensen soon equalized for the Danes and Les Bleus needed Mbappe to deliver again in the 86th minute as he turned in Antoine Griezmann’s cross to puncture the Danish resistance once and for all.
Having scored four during France’s victorious 2018 campaign and one against Australia, Mbappe now has seven goals in nine World Cup appearances.
Didier Deschamps’s side now have the luxury of going into their final group game against Tunisia knowing a draw will guarantee them top spot, and even a defeat may not prevent them finishing first.
Having come roaring back to batter Australia 4-1 in their opening match in Qatar, France were more wasteful in front of goal on this occasion but at least they did not come unstuck against opponents who have caused them problems before.
They were reigning champions when a defeat to the Danes knocked them out of the 2002 World Cup, while the sides played out the only goalless draw in 2018.
More recently Kasper Hjulmand’s side beat France home and away in this year’s Nations League, and it seemed that Deschamps had learned lessons from those two encounters.
If France were a shadow of their usual selves in Copenhagen in September, they were much better in this match, played in a pop-up stadium made of shipping containers on Doha’s waterfront.
Deschamps changed three of his back four, with Theo Hernandez at left-back in place of his injured elder brother Lucas and Raphael Varane coming in for his first game in over a month.
But the French attack was untouched from the Australia game.
If Olivier Giroud took the headlines then, here Ousmane Dembele was electric at times on the right, Griezmann excelled in an advanced midfield role, and Mbappe made the difference.
France’s pace, power and passing were all too sharp for the Euro 2020 semifinalists who were lucky to go in level at half-time.
There were some French appeals for a red card in the 19th minute when Mbappe burst onto a beautiful threaded through ball by Griezmann only to be hauled down by Christensen, but the Danish defender escaped with a yellow.
The holders’ best chances in the first half came from headers by Varane and Adrien Rabiot, but when Mbappe turned away from Joachim Andersen just before the hour mark and accelerated away, it was a sign that a goal was coming.
His shot was turned behind by Kasper Schmeichel, and Griezmann then wasted a great chance shortly after, but in the 61st minute Mbappe did score.
The Paris Saint-Germain superstar linked up brilliantly with Hernandez on the left and met his teammate’s cutback with a shot that beat Schmeichel thanks to a deflection off Christensen.
Denmark had offered little but suddenly they were level midway through the second half as Andersen nodded down a corner and his fellow defender Christensen headed home.
Hugo Lloris was then forced into a key save to deny Jesper Lindstrom and Martin Braithwaite grazed a post as Denmark threatened to turn the game completely on its head.
That would have been extremely harsh on France, even if they could only really have themselves to blame for not making more of their chances.
But Mbappe was not to be denied as he stole in front of Rasmus Kristensen at the back post with four minutes left to meet Griezmann’s cross with his thigh for his 31st international goal.

Five things we learned from Saudi Arabia’s 2-0 defeat to Poland

Five things we learned from Saudi Arabia’s 2-0 defeat to Poland
Updated 26 November 2022

Five things we learned from Saudi Arabia’s 2-0 defeat to Poland

Five things we learned from Saudi Arabia’s 2-0 defeat to Poland
  • Game was an entertaining encounter that should have seen more goals
  • Green Falcons dominated possession, had more chances

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia lost 2-0 to Poland at Education City in Qatar on Saturday and remain on three points after two games in World Cup Group C.
Here are five things we learned from the match:
Saudi Arabia deserved something
It was an entertaining encounter that should have contained more goals, and many of them could have gone to Saudi Arabia. There may have been concerns that the win over Argentina was so big that it would be hard for coach Herve Renard to get his players down from cloud nine and focus on the task at hand, but that was not the issue. The problem was just a lack of clinical finishing. But there was plenty to like about the performance, with Salem Al-Dawsari and Mohamed Kanno particularly impressive.
Saudi Arabia had more of the possession and more of the chances. Even if we take away the missed penalty, there were plenty of opportunities for them to score. Unlike in the win over Argentina when the first two attempts resulted in goals, there was just no way past Wojciech Szczesny. The Poland goalkeeper had a fine game and there were examples of shots flying wide and over from good positions.
On another day, Saudi Arabia would have taken a point from this game, but they were punished by refereeing decisions, their own mistakes, not taking their chances and Poland making the most of theirs.
Harsh first half for the Falcons
Saudi Arabia played well in the first half, which lasted 55 minutes, but all the major incidents in the period went against them. First, Poland’s Matty Cash should have been sent off. The Aston Villa defender was booked for a late tackle but just a few minutes later somehow got away with a dangerous challenge on Mohammed Al-Burayk.
Had a second yellow been shown then Cash would not have been in an advanced position after 39 minutes to pass to Robert Lewandowski who then set up Piotr Zielinski to fire home. It was a goal that came totally against the run of play but that is what happens in football and Saudi Arabia will feel aggrieved that Poland still had 11 men on the pitch.
And then there was the penalty that came in added time as Saleh Al-Shehri was brought down in the area. In truth, Salem Al-Dawsari’s spot kick was not the best but Al-Burayk should have done better with the rebound. Going in level at the break against 10 men would have produced a very different second half.
This is a new, confident Saudi Arabia
What a difference a win against Argentina makes. If anyone was tuning in without knowing anything about the teams, they would have thought that the men in green were the favorites, with players active at the highest level, and that the ones in blue and white were the underdogs.
There were questions as to whether Renard would set his team up in the same way for the second game, and he did. The same, brave, high line was there, the same pressing and even more energy. Saudi Arabia flew out of the blocks and went at Poland, who did not impress in their opening 0-0 draw with Mexico. The Poles were clearly rattled, as three yellow cards collected in the first half of the first half showed.
This is now a Saudi team that knows it can trouble European and South American opposition and does not back down. This is an attitude that needs to continue.
Saudi Arabia have home advantage
Saturday’s game may have officially taken place in Qatar but it could have been Riyadh, Jeddah or Dammam, such were the numbers of Saudi fans in the stadium. As well as the quantity, there was also quality, with noise levels reaching rarely heard heights at the tournament.
The atmosphere was something else and it spurred on the players. It also rattled the Poles who really struggled to settle. They were jeered when in possession, in contrast to the cheers that greeted Saudi Arabian possession. It took an opening goal before the Poles started to look even remotely comfortable. Whatever happens, the Saudi Arabian fans and the players have come together to make one of the stories of the World Cup, and Mexico will not be looking forward to visiting Lusail Iconic Stadium on Wednesday.
There is still all to play for and no reason to feel down
Fans will have to wait and see what happens in Saturday’s late game between Argentina and Mexico to know exactly what they have to do, but whatever happens, everybody would have accepted this position before the World Cup began. Three points from the first two games means the Falcons are in control of their destiny. A win over Mexico means that a place in the knockout stage is guaranteed. It remains to be seen if a draw will suffice.
Coach Renard will have to wait and see what happens with players who have collected knocks but there are still plenty of reasons to be cheerful. Saudi Arabia have shown that they can live with their opponents. Glory awaits and with tens of thousands of fans behind them next week then anything could happen. The defeat against Poland does not need to be a devastating one and nobody should feel down.


Lewandowski scores at World Cup, Poland beat Saudis 2-0

Lewandowski scores at World Cup, Poland beat Saudis 2-0
Updated 26 November 2022

Lewandowski scores at World Cup, Poland beat Saudis 2-0

Lewandowski scores at World Cup, Poland beat Saudis 2-0
  • The 34-year-old Lewandowski also set up the opener in the 40th minute when he kept the ball in play
  • Al-Owais denied Lewandowski from scoring a second goal late in the match

AL RAYYAN, Qatar: Robert Lewandowski finally scored at the World Cup on Saturday, helping Poland beat Saudi Arabia 2-0 and boosting his team’s chances of reaching the knockout stages.
Lewandowski shed tears after scoring in the 82nd minute. He raced toward the corner with his arms outstretched, then stayed slumped on the field as teammates rushed to congratulate him. He got up, rubbed his face, and blew a kiss to the crowd.
It was the Poland forward’s first World Cup goal in his fifth appearance at the tournament.
The 34-year-old Lewandowski also set up the opener in the 40th minute when he kept the ball in play after goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais’ initial block, then laid it back for Piotr Zielinski to knock in.
Al-Owais denied Lewandowski from scoring a second goal late in the match.
Poland was scrambling for long periods at the Education City Stadium as the Saudi team was pushed forward by enthusiastic fans in what seemed like a home game.
Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny saved Salem Al-Dawsari’s penalty at the end of the first half. He then blocked Mohammed Al-Burayk’s shot from the rebound.
Poland will next face Argentina, while Saudi Arabia will meet Mexico in their last Group C games.


Brazil with plenty of options to replace Neymar at World Cup

Brazil with plenty of options to replace Neymar at World Cup
Updated 26 November 2022

Brazil with plenty of options to replace Neymar at World Cup

Brazil with plenty of options to replace Neymar at World Cup
  • Neymar hurt his right ankle in Brazil’s opening 2-0 win against Serbia on Thursday
  • The most straightforward option would be to use Rodrygo in Neymar’s position, keeping Raphinha, Vinícius Júnior and Richarlison in attack

DOHA: With Neymar out for at least another match, Brazil coach Tite must now start thinking about a replacement — and this time he has plenty of options.
Brazil are not as Neymar-dependent as they used to be, and Tite could go several different ways to replace the Paris Saint-Germain forward for Monday’s Group G match against Switzerland.
Neymar hurt his right ankle in Brazil’s opening 2-0 win against Serbia on Thursday. He has ligament damage and team doctors have not given a timetable for his recovery — or said if he will be able to recover at all.
Tite brought nine forward to the World Cup, and could also add a midfielder as Neymar’s replacement if wanted.
The most straightforward option would be to use Rodrygo in Neymar’s position, keeping Raphinha, Vinícius Júnior and Richarlison in attack. Rodrygo plays more as an attacker at Real Madrid, but he has trained in Neymar’s “No. 10” playmaking position while with Brazil in Qatar.
Another alternative would be to put an extra midfielder in Neymar’s position — Manchester United’s Fred or Newcastle’s Bruno Guimarães, for example — freeing up attacking midfielder Lucas Paquetá, who played closer to defensive midfielder Casemiro against Serbia.
Another attacking midfielder available to Tite is Everton Ribeiro, while the other forward in the squad are Gabriel Jesus, Antony, Gabriel Martinelli and Pedro.
Neymar attracted most of the attention from the tough Serbian defense, which kept roughing him up from the start. He was fouled nine times during the game, the most by any player at the World Cup in the first round of matches in the group stage.
Neymar is Brazil’s second-best all-time scorer with 75 goals, two behind Pelé’s record with the national team. The last time he was out at a World Cup — because of a back injury sustained in the quarterfinals against Colombia in 2014 — Brazil went on to get embarrassed by Germany 7-1 in the semifinals.
Tite won’t be able to count on right back Danilo, who also sprained his ankle against Serbia. Danilo’s replacement will likely be veteran Daniel Alves, although Tite could also use central defender Éder Militão in the position.
Brazil, seeking their first World Cup title in two decades, faces Cameroon in their last group match. They can reach the round of 16 in advance with a win on Monday if Cameroon do not defeat Serbia in the other group match.


Ronaldo’s ‘total genius’ won World Cup penalty, says FIFA group

Ronaldo’s ‘total genius’ won World Cup penalty, says FIFA group
Updated 26 November 2022

Ronaldo’s ‘total genius’ won World Cup penalty, says FIFA group

Ronaldo’s ‘total genius’ won World Cup penalty, says FIFA group
  • The veteran striker went down after a tackle by Mohammed Salisu on Thursday before scoring the resulting spot-kick
  • "Maybe the strikers are getting smarter," former Nigeria international Oliseh told a press conference

DOHA: Cristiano Ronaldo showed “total genius” by winning a controversial penalty in Portugal’s World Cup win over Ghana, FIFA technical study group member Sunday Olizeh said on Saturday.
The veteran striker went down after a tackle by Mohammed Salisu on Thursday before scoring the resulting spot-kick to become the first man to net at five World Cups.
Ghana coach Otto Addo described the penalty decision as a “gift” to Ronaldo and said it was a “really wrong decision.”
“Maybe the strikers are getting smarter,” former Nigeria international Olizeh told a press conference when asked why more penalties were being awarded at the tournament so far than in previous years.
“If you look at the penalty Ronaldo got, let’s face it, people can say what they want about this man, but the genius thought to just be patient and put my foot to touch the ball first before you, continue my leg so that you make contact with my leg — that is total genius.
“Let’s give the strikers the compliment for getting smarter.”
Nine penalties were awarded in the first round of group-stage matches.
“VAR is also a major reason why this (more penalties being awarded) is happening because the referees can now look at it three or four times and decide,” added Olizeh.
Portugal take on Uruguay in their second match on Monday before finishing their Group H campaign against South Korea four days later.