Cristiano will play for Al Nassr: How good is the Saudi league? What are the best teams?
What do we know about Ronaldo’s new league and the opponents he will come up against?
On what might be one final leg of his drawn-out farewell tour, after a stint back at where it all began made him realised the kids are into funky new pop music, Ronaldo has shown up in Saudi Arabia playing for Al Nassr. The Portuguese forward, a legend of the game, has signed for the club: his career will go on for at least two more years. And he will be a star in Saudi Arabia, not a whinging talking head on a Piers Morgan show, but a proper footballer again. Right?
So, just what do we know about Al Nassr? How good are they? How good are the other teams?
Cristiano’s new club
Al Nassr are based in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh, which sits pretty much in the middle of the country. There are over 7 million people in the city, roughly 13 times that of the population of Manchester. The weather’s better, too, with temperatures reaching 37º - Manchester? Nowhere near that.
The club play in the top division of Saudi football, the Saudi Professional League (SPL) and there are 18 teams in total. Al Hilal won the league last season, 6 points ahead of Al Nasr, who came third. At the time of Cristiano’s arrival, Al Nassr sat second in the league, just two points off top with 10 games played. They play at Mrsool Park, a stadium that has a capacity of 25,000.
What have Al Nassr won?
The club are currently the second in the all-time success charts in Saudi football, with 9 titles; city rivals Al Hilal, well, they have exactly double that. Let’s see if Cristiano can close the gap. In terms of cup competitions, Al Nassr have won the King’s Cup 6 times, with their most recent success coming in 1990.
In terms of continental success, the AFC Champions League - Asia’s equivalent of the UEFA Champions League - they have yet to taste victory, only coming as runners-up in 1995. The task may not be impossible, however, with two teams from Saudi Arabia winning the title: Al Ittihad have two Champions Leagues while Al Hilal - yes, them again - have six! Ronaldo definitely has ‘homework’ to do in beating Al Nassr’s older brother.
If Al Nassr are to qualify for the 2023-24 Champions League, they have to win the league this season. Ronaldo and Champions League heroics? Who’d have imagined?