The big names Cristiano Ronaldo will face in Saudi Arabia after £175m-a-year Al-Nassr move
By Kathryn Batte For Mailonline,2023-01-26
Cristiano Ronaldo finally made his Al-Nassr debut on Sunday after serving a two-match ban following his free transfer from Manchester United earlier this month.
The 37-year-old has come under some criticism for making the lucrative £175million-a-year move to Saudi Arabia after previously stating he wanted to finish his career at the ‘very top’.
But following his debut at the weekend, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner became the biggest star to ever grace the Saudi Pro League and it’s fair to say the standard of opponents will be somewhat lower than what he is used to. But just who will Ronaldo be coming against with his new club? Sportsmail takes a look…
Perhaps Cristiano Ronaldo’s biggest competition for the golden boot is another former Manchester United forward. Ighalo had a brief but eventful loan with the Red Devils before making the move to Saudi, first joining Al Shabab then signing for Al-Hilal six months later.
Ighalo scored 24 goals in 31 league games in his first season and is the division’s current top scorer having netted seven times this term.
The 33-year-old has set the example for Ronaldo to follow.
The Argentine midfielder made the surprising but lucrative move to Al-Shabab in 2020 despite still being a regular for Sevilla.
Banega scored seven goals in his first campaign and six in his second, but is yet to get off the mark this season.
The 34-year-old is one of the most experienced players in the division having enjoyed spells with Valencia, Atletico Madrid and Inter Milan to name a few.
One of the big stars of the Saudi league, West Brom fans will remember Pereira from his two-year spell with the club from 2019-2021.
The attacking midfielder showed promise with 11 goals in the 2020-21 Premier League season but it was not enough to prevent the Baggies relegation back to the Championship.
Pereira left that summer to join Al-Hilal with then West Brom manager Valerien Ismael accusing him of ‘not being committed’, comments which the 26-year-old branded ‘disrespectful.’ Pereira only managed two goals last season and is yet to score this term.
Another familiar name to English football fans, Costa is currently playing for Al-Ittihad on loan from Leeds United.
Despite being part of the team that earned promotion to the Premier League in 2020, Costa struggled to make a mark in the top flight and was loaned out to Valencia last season before making the temporary move to Saudi.
The winger took a while to get going but scored his first goal for Al-Ittihad on Boxing Day.
Manchester City fans will remember the former Ecuador international signed by Sven-Goran Eriksson 14 years ago in 2008. Caicdeo was a quick striker, often used as a super sub, but struggled with injuries during his time at the Etihad and was sent out on loan three times.
The best spell of Caicedo’s career was with Lazio, where he won two Supercup titles and one Coppa Italia.
Now 34, the forward joined Abha in the summer and has one goal in 10 games.
Another former West Brom man, Hegazi swapped the Hawthorns for Al-Ittihad in 2020 - first on loan before agreeing a permanent move a year later.
The defender was a big character during the Baggies' stint in the Premier League and has already made an impact with his new club, helping them finish second last season.
Hegazi will no doubt be relishing the challenge of trying to keep Ronaldo at bay when the two face off in the Saudi Super Cup semi-final later this month.
A former Reading and Wolves striker, John signed for Al-Hazem in 2021.
The 30-year-old had a decent loan spell in the Championship with the Royals but his time at Molineux was hampered by injuries.
Despite scoring eight goals in 24 appearances last season, John is yet to feature for his club this term.
Yet another man who has played for West Brom. Krychowiak, who played for the Baggies on loan during the 2017-18 season, is a Poland international and started every game for his country at the World Cup in Qatar.
The midfielder used new FIFA regulations to temporarily suspend his contract with Russian club Krasnodar last year and joined Al-Shabab on loan after a short spell with AEK Athens.
Krychowiak, who has previously played for Paris Saint-Germain and Sevilla, has scored two goals in 15 games this season.
Another man who has enjoyed a brief loan spell in England, former Fulham forward Vietto made the move to Saudi in 2020.
The forward initially signed for Al-Hilal but joined Al-Shabab on loan in the summer.
After just two goals in 13 games last season, Vietto already has four in 11 this term.
A current Sweden international, Robin Quaison joined Al-Ettifaq from German club Mainz in 2021.
The 29-year-old forward started his career with Swedish side AIK before a three-year spell with Palermo.
Quaison, who has scored 12 times for his country, netted seven times in his first season but has only found the net once this term.
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