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The numbers behind Cristiano Ronaldo’s worst season in 16 years

The Portuguese superstar featured for Manchester United and Al Nassr in 2022/23 but has had a year to forget.

The Portuguese superstar featured for Manchester United and Al Nassr in 2022/23 but has had a year to forget.

It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that Cristiano Ronaldo hasn’t had the best season of his career. In the space of a few months, the Portuguese has gone from being one of the Premier League’s biggest stars at Manchester United to failing to win silverware in Saudi Arabia, all the while recording his worst goal return since 2007. On Wednesday, it was confirmed that Ronaldo’s Al Nassr would finish the campaign five points behind champions Al Ittihad. With the league title gone, the former Real Madrid attacker didn’t feature in their final match of the season against Al Fateh.

Ronaldo’s unhappy ending at Manchester United

Although he stopped short of saying it publicly, Red Devils boss Erik Ten Hag never saw Ronaldo as the right fit for ‘his’ United. All parties looked for a way to cut ties last summer but were unable to find a club who would take on his sky-high wages and were prepared to welcome him into the squad.

Although he did feature regularly for the Premier League giants in the Europa League, he made only four Premier League starts before the 2022 World Cup and made headlines for all the wrong reasons, such as his tantrum against Tottenham Hotspur, which saw him head up the tunnel before the end of the game. The club themselves suspended him for one game.

Then, in an explosive interview in the run-up to the World Cup, Ronaldo blasted United and Ten Hag, leading to his contract being terminated “by mutual agreement” a few days later.

Portugal captain benched at 2022 World Cup

His performances on the field in Qatar were little to get excited about, the Portugal captain scoring just one goal - a penalty - in the group stage. To make matters worse, he was dropped from the team in favour of Benfica striker Gonçalo Ramos when the knockout rounds began.

In the days after the Portuguese’s quarter-final exit to Morocco, it was revealed that Ronaldo had agreed a move to Saudi Arabia, presumably through gritted teeth given that it was a sign that there was no longer a place for him in elite soccer.

Al Nassr and Ronaldo’s trophyless season

His time at Al Nassr hasn’t gone much better. The club were defeated in the Saudi Super Cup by Al Ittihad days after his arrival and later lost to relegation-threatened Al Wehda in the King’s Cup. On top of that, the Riyadh-based side have never really been in striking distance to catch the leaders at the top the Saudi Pro League.

In his five months in Saudi Arabia he has scored 14 goals, which would be a respectable return for anyone other than the man who averaged more than a goal a game for nine years while at Real Madrid. The reality, however, is that Ronaldo’s 22 goals for Manchester United, Al Nassr and Portugal mean 2022/23 has been his worst goalscoring season since 2005/06, when he was 21.

Now 38, he hasn’t shown any intention of retiring from international duty and has a contract with his current club until 2025. A new Saudi season begins in August and with it a chance to put the last 12 months behind him.


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