Cristiano Ronaldo’s club future could yet be in Saudi Arabia despite rebuffing a previous offer, with the nation’s sports minister hailing him as a “role model”.
The Portugal captain is without a domestic team after mutually agreeing the termination of his contract with Manchester United in the wake of a controversial interview.
It brings to an end an ill-fated second spell with the Premier League club, yet it could have been curtailed even earlier after the forward fielded bids from other teams during the off-season.
One of those was from an unnamed Saudi club, and now the country’s minister of sports, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, has backed the possibility of another move to bring him to the nation.
“Anything is possible,” he told BBC Sport. “I would love to see Ronaldo play in the Saudi league.
“It would benefit the league, the sports ecosystem in Saudi, and it will inspire the youth for the future. He’s a role model to a lot of kids and has a big fan base.”
5 – Cristiano Ronaldo has become the first player to score five in different editions of the World Cup (2006, 2010, 2014, 2018, 2022). Limitless. pic.twitter.com/w6noDKxoVR
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 24, 2022
Ronaldo’s exit prefaced news the Glazer family, long-term owners of United, are reportedly considering a sale, after years of protests over the direction the club has headed under their watch.
Coupled with Fenway Sports Group, the owners of fellow Premier League team Liverpool, exploring their options, the door is open for potential further investment into the English top-flight from the gulf state.
Newcastle United are already owned by Saudi Arabia’s state-backed Public Investment Fund (PIF), but while Abdulaziz has ruled out another bid from the government, he has suggested private investment could still be explored.
“It’s the most-watched league in Saudi and the region, and you have a lot of fans of the Premier League,” he added.
“From the private sector, I can’t speak on their behalf, but there is a lot of interest and appetite and there’s a lot of passion about football.
“We will definitely support it if any [Saudi] private sector comes in, because we know that’s going to reflect positively on sports within the kingdom. If there’s an investor willing to do so and the numbers add up, why not?”