Al Nassr head coach Rudi Garcia believes the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo to Saudi Arabia bears fleeting resemblance to Pele’s arrival in the United States to play for the New York Cosmos back in 1975.
“It’s a bit like Pele’s arrival (in the North American Soccer League),” Garcia said of his side’s new 37-year-old signing. Especially for the development of football, sport and culture in Saudi Arabia.”
He further added, “Cristiano Ronaldo is more than a player. He is one of the best players in the world. For the development of Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, it is very, very important. If today the Dakar is here, it brings home that in sports and cultural development a country can do a lot.”
The French manager mentioned how big a boost it was for the club as a brand to have such a big signing join them.
“This is why I’m here” ️🎙️
Relive @Cristiano‘s incredible hero’s welcome to Mrsool Park and watch his first exclusive interview as an Al Nassr player ⭐#HalaRonaldo 💛 pic.twitter.com/YdxFEP0bNB
— AlNassr FC (@AlNassrFC_EN) January 5, 2023
“It’s amazing how much it’s put a spotlight on our club. Now everyone knows where our club is around the world,” he said. “We must have gone from 800,000 (followers) to 10 million in a few hours, a few days, because of Cristiano’s arrival.”
‘Greatest champions are easiest to manage’
When asked about his thoughts on getting to manage the five-time Ballon D’or winner, Garcia exclaimed that the ‘greatest champions are easiest to manage’.
“He blended in with the squad. We saw him joking and laughing with pleasure with his new teammates. He was with us for the last game, even if he couldn’t play. He was in the locker room, riding his bike.”
On Ronaldo’s first appearance
Even though he has signed up for Al Nassr, Ronaldo’s first outing in Saudi Arabia ‘will not be in a Al-Nassr jersey’, per Garcia. The Portuguese will rather feature in a joint Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr team due to face Qatari owner Paris Saint Germain in an exhibition match on January 19.
All smiles in Riyadh tonight 😁💛 pic.twitter.com/qQwOxlxHEO
— AlNassr FC (@AlNassrFC_EN) January 4, 2023
While the potential of another Cristiano Ronaldo-Lionel Messi matchup has gotten many of football fans excited, Garcia said, “As coach of Al-Nassr, I cannot be happy with this match. We have a league game three days later.”
Hope for Ronaldo to ‘find the pleasure of playing’
“These last months between Manchester, the national team and then at the private level he has not had any easy moments. If he finds the pleasure of playing it will be a goal already achieve,” Garcia said.
“The only thing I wish for Ronaldo is that he finds the pleasure of playing and smiles again,” he added.
Ronaldo parted ways with Manchester United last year after his sensational interview with Piers Morgan, in which he criticised his treatment by the club hierarchies and said that he ‘didn’t respect’ manager Erik Ten Hag, created a bridge divide between the two parties.
The Portuguese captain in his last World Cup was also not involved in the entirety of Fernando Santos managed Portugal’s World Cup campaign that ended with a defeat to Morocco in the quarter finals and Ronaldo leaving the pitch in tears.
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