While Lionel Messi is thriving in MLS, Cristiano Ronaldo just won his first title in Saudi Arabia.
The former Real Madrid star scored twice in his club Al Nassr’s 2-1 win over Al-Hilal in the final of the Arab Club Champions Cup, his biggest achievement since moving to Saudi Arabia and the club’s first-ever title in the tournament.
The winner came in the 98th minute, at which point Al Nassr was playing with 10 men:
Ronaldo signed a deal reported to be worth more than $200 million per year in December 2022, which was the first move in Saudi Arabia’s strategy to beef up its soccer league by signing any big name that would take the money. It was all part of the country’s larger effort to use sports to redefine itself on the world stage.
Messi spurned an offer reported to be worth roughly double what Ronaldo is making, but names like Karim Benzema, Roberto Firmino, N’Golo Kanté, Edouard Mendy, Ruben Neves and Jota were more amenable. Ronaldo was joined at Al Nassr by the likes of Sadio Mané, Seko Fofana and Marcelo Brozović, all of whom were on the field Saturday.
Al Hilal struck first with a goal from Michael in the 51st minute. Michael celebrated by imitating Ronaldo’s trademark celebration, which ended up looking foolish when Ronaldo equalized it in the 74th minute, then won it in extra time.
Ronaldo won the tournament’s golden boot with six goals, but it wasn’t all good for him, as he had to be carted off the field several minutes after his second goal. He appeared to be in good spirits while dancing with the trophy and on social media after the match, though, so the injury could be minor.
Ronaldo and Al Nassr won’t have much time to celebrate, though, as their Saudi Pro League opener against Al Ettifaq is scheduled for Monday.