Portuguese legend Cristiano Ronaldo looks set to become the most expensive player in football history after reportedly agreeing an eye-watering deal with Saudi Arabian side Al-Nassr. Ronaldo - who left Manchester United in acrimonious circumstances before the World Cup - has agreed a two-and-a-half year deal worth a staggering $AUD770 million.
Reports from Spanish publication Marca indicate that Ronaldo will earn a whopping $AUD308 million-a-year with Al-Nassr, following revelations from the Portugal captain that he turned down a staggering $5.3m-a-week offer to play in Saudi Arabia before the start of the current season.
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ESPN says Ronaldo will wait until the World Cup is over before officially confirming his next move, with the Saudi Pro League resuming before the World Cup ends in mid-December. Coach Rudi Garcia’s Al-Nassr - currently second in the national league - next play on December 16 - which is two days before the World Cup final in Qatar.
Ronaldo had been widely tipped to sign for David Beckham's Inter Miami in America's Major League Soccer, but Al-Nassr looks to have beaten them as well as Saudi-owned English Premier League giants Newcastle United to his prized signature.
The 37-year-old's Portugal side secured their spot in the knockout stages of the World Cup with a game to spare, knowing a win in their final game in Group H on Saturday morning (AEDT) against South Korea will guarantee top spot.
Portugal forward André Silva insists that the constant speculation over Ronaldo's future won't prove a distraction for the side. “He is our captain and probably the most important figure in Portuguese football. It’s important to have him by our side,” Silva told a news conference when Ronaldo was consistently referenced.
The reports linking Ronaldo with Al-Nassr come after the five-time Ballon d'Or winner had his contract terminated by Manchester United following his explosive interview with Piers Morgan in which he criticised manager Erik ten Hag and the club's owners. The 37-year-old Ronaldo is now a free agent and his availability at club level has been drawing attention in Qatar and beyond.
Ronaldo found himself at the centre of a bizarre controversy during Portugal's 2-0 win over Uruguay in their second group game when he claimed a goal from Bruno Fernandes, which was later awarded to his teammate. Ronaldo was roundly criticised on social media after wheeling away in celebration, despite replays suggesting the ball made no contact with his head.
However, moments after Ronaldo claimed the goal from Fernandes' cross, FIFA ruled that the ball went directly in without the help from the Portuguese forward. This appeared to confuse Ronaldo who was caught reacting to the big screen.
Cristiano Ronaldo denied goal for Portugal
Debate raged on whether Ronaldo extended his record-goal tally for Portugal or Fernandes scored a double for his nation. Many fans mocked Ronaldo for his reaction to claiming the goal, despite somewhat inconclusive replays.
Other fans defended Ronaldo for continuing his dream of breaking records. But FIFA, along with ball sponsor Adidas, have claimed they have proof of who scored. Using the microchip in the ball, which tracks data, FIFA claim Ronaldo did not get a touch on the cross as there was no spike to indicate contact.
"No external force on the ball could be measured as shown by the lack of 'heartbeat' in our measurements," a FIFA statement read. "The 500HZ IMU sensor inside the ball allows us to be highly accurate in our analysis.
Adidas added: "Technology inside the ball definitively shows there was no touch." This all but ends the debate and leaves Ronaldo now two goals behind Mbappe, Gakpo and Rashford with all three of these goal scorers advancing into the knockout stages of the World Cup.
In what will surely be Ronaldo's last World Cup, the Portuguese forward is attempting to achieve two feats he is yet to accomplish in his decorated career. Those are to lift the World Cup and finish as the highest goal scorer of the competition.
Portugal's second win in two games put them top of Group H on six points and heading into the last 16. Uruguay, third on one point, must beat Ghana in their final group game to have a chance of progressing. Ghana sit second in the group following their 3-2 win over South Korea.
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