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The Cristiano effect as territories snap up Saudi Pro League rights

The Portuguese striker made his debut for new club Al Nassr on Sunday as part of a 1-0 win with demand for the SPL games growing internationally.

Soccer Football - Saudi Pro League - Al Nassr v Al Ettifaq - Mrsool Park, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - January 22, 2023 Al Nassr's Cristiano Ronaldo during the warm up before the match REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri

Cristiano Ronaldo made his debut for new club Al Nassr as they faced Ettifaq on Sunday. The veteran striker captained the team as part of a 1-0 win over the Damman club to regain top spot in the Roshn Saudi League.

Cristiano Ronaldo of Al Nassr reacts
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Cristiano Ronaldo of Al Nassr reacts Anadolu AgencyGetty

The 37-year-old is is set to play out the final years of his club career in Saudi Arabia, having signed a lucrative contract through to 2025 in December.

Ronaldo was handed the captain’s armband, having already featured for a Riyadh All-Stars team – scoring twice – against Lionel Messi’s Paris Saint-Germain this week and enjoyed a discreet debut showing flashes of the player of old going close with a direct free-kick in the first half.

International CR7 demand

The arrival of Ronaldo in Riyadh has been seismic for the domestic league and club with Al Nassr’s social media surging in global followers with the official Instagram account alone rocketing from 850,000 users to 11 million as a result of Cristiano’s signing.

This demand has translated in an interest in following the striker’s domestic action as he looks to deliver silverware for his new club.

Cristiano Ronaldo (7) of Al Nassr in action
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Cristiano Ronaldo (7) of Al Nassr in action Anadolu AgencyGetty

The Saudi Professional League appointed the IMG (sports management agency) to sell the media rights for the competition ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo’s debut in the competition and within just a week, deals were secured with partners including Sport TV in Portugal, Sportitalia in Italy, RMC Sport in France, Cosmote in Greece and Sportdigital Fussball in the Germany/Austria and Switzerland.

Ronaldo’s next game for Al Nassr is scheduled for Thursday as they face Jeddah based Al Ittihad (coached by former Wolves, Valencia and Spurs manager Nuno Espirito Santo) in the semi-final of the Saudi Super Cup.