Al-Nassr coach Rudi Garcia has compared Cristiano Ronaldo’s transfer to Pele’s New York Cosmos move in 1975, saying that its impact goes beyond football.
Speaking during a visit to the Dakar Rally camp, the Frenchman expressed his desire to see Ronaldo regain the joy of playing, and said the 37-year-old Portuguese legend is in fine physical condition and already integrated with the squad.
Garcia also explained that Ronaldo is not just any footballer, highlighting his five Ballon d’Or awards.
“I think this matter is very important for the development of Saudi Arabia and the Middle East,” said Garcia. “If I can make a comparison, I think it is similar to Pele’s arrival (to the New York Cosmos) in his era, especially with regard to the development of football in Saudi Arabia.”
“Since Cristiano’s arrival, our club has been in the limelight, and the whole world knows our club now,” the French coach added. “I think we went from 800,000 to 10 million (followers on social media) in a matter of hours, a few days, thanks to his arrival.”
“As I always think, it’s very easy to manage big champions,” he said. “He integrated with the group, we watched him joking and laughing with his new colleagues. He was with us in the last game, even if he wasn’t able to play. He was present in the dressing room.”
“He trained on a bicycle and was happy after our registration. He is with the group with all his energy and has the desire to win. He is a winner by nature, and there is no doubt that he will drag everyone behind him from this point of view.”
Asked when Ronaldo would make his Al-Nassr debut, Garcia said he would likely take part in the match against Ettifaq in Riyadh on Jan. 22.
Before that, he is expected to play in the Riyadh Season Cup between Paris Saint-Germain and a select 11 of Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr players on Jan. 19.
“We have a league match three days later,” Garcia said of the exhibition game against Lionel Messi and company. “But this is not very dangerous, the most important thing is that this matter shows how keen Saudi Arabia is on sports and football.”