In a shocking move earlier this month, Cristiano Ronaldo signed with Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr, where he would earn an estimated €200 million annually. After a shocking interview with Piers Morgan on Talk TV in November, the five-time Ballon d'Or winner and Manchester United mutually decided to sever their partnership, leading to this contract.
The 37-year-old striker tried very hard to sign with a major European club, but no team was interested in him due to his high salary requirements and declining performance. Both the Red Devils and Portugal started to no longer consider the veteran a member of their active roster.
On Thursday, a 3-0 loss against Al-Ittihad in the Saudi Super Cup Semi-Finals sent Al-Nassr home empty-handed, with the Portuguese star being held scoreless in the loss. His manager Rudi Garcia compounded problems by lambasting him for passing up a game-winning chance. Because of these and other concerns, Ronaldo has taken the heat for moving to Saudi Arabia.
Why Al-Nassr move gives Cristiano Ronaldo upper hand over Lionel Messi as per Piers Morgan
Morgan's closeness to Ronaldo has made him a prime interview subject, and he was recently asked whether he has been in touch with the Portuguese superstar since the transfer. In fact, to justify his defense of Cristiano Ronaldo's departure to Saudi Arabia, the reporter made an odd critique of Lionel Messi.
His latest comments, in which he suggests that Ronaldo's transfer to the Middle East 'gives him an advantage' over Messi, are at odds with his own interview with the Portuguese from two months ago: "Thanks to the fall-out from our interview, Ronaldo signed the biggest transfer deal in football history, and is now the world’s highest-paid athlete, at the age of 37.
"He is also doing what he’s done throughout his career, which for me gives him the edge over Messi, and that challenges himself in a new country, and new league, at a time when football in the Middle East is really taking off, as we saw at the Qatar World Cup where Morocco reached the Semi-Finals and Saudi Arabia beat the eventual winners, Messi’s Argentina.”
“He wanted freedom from Manchester United, where he rightly felt he had been badly disrespected by both the manager and senior club executives. Ideally, I think he’d have preferred to play for another top club in the Champions League for a year or two, but Al Nassr made him a staggering offer, and I think the fresh challenge of raising the profile of football in a new region of the world, at the twilight of his incredible career, really appealed to him", Morgan said in an interview with Tatler.