Cristiano Ronaldo is getting a warm welcome in his first few days in Saudi Arabia, but not the kind he expected.
The Saudi capital has experienced decades of inclement weather and the self-proclaimed GOAT landed in Riyadh in November to serve the first match of a two-game ban imposed by the FA.
His stormy departure from Manchester United and his arrival in Arabia have been marked by torrential rain, thunder and lightning, which forced his debut on Thursday night to be canceled and rescheduled for Friday, when Al-Nassr comfortably overtook Al-Tai 2. -0 at Mrisul Park.
Cristiano Ronaldo (centre) was officially presented as an Al-Nasr player on Tuesday afternoon
Ronaldo was in a VIP box as Al-Nasr won their first match since signing.
But he was missing his seat for the entire second half, failing to applaud his victorious new team-mates from a rain-soaked pitch at the final whistle.
Despite another day of heavy rain, Al-Nasr announced a match against Al Tai at Mrusool Park.
Ground keepers worked with squeegees and pitchforks to try to clear the swamp-like water off the pitch 90 minutes before kick off in a largely empty ground.
Stewards dressed in blue plastic ponchos sheltered from the driving rain as officials inside prepared to reveal whether their performing Portugal star would break the ban.
Ronaldo arrived at Mrisul Park in a tracksuit with his team-mates and waded through ankle-deep puddles as they entered the stadium 90 minutes before the scheduled kick-off time. His image was placed next to a giant screen and in front of the executive box for all to see.
His new team’s first match since signing on Thursday was postponed due to heavy rain in Riyadh
Torrential rain caused power problems at Al-Nasr ground and forced the postponement
Heavy rain continued on Friday but the groundskeepers were working with squeegees and pitch forks to clear the water and make the surface playable.
Al-Nasr’s clash with Al Ta’ee’i at Mersool Park went ahead on Friday despite torrential rain
Ronaldo’s photo shows him wearing his new club shirt, with both his fists raised showing his biceps. But after calling Saudi Arabia ‘South Africa’ at his arrival press conference, the Portuguese made another mistake on Friday.
As the national anthem of his adopted country was played and the teams lined up, the banned striker was speaking to a man in the VIP box.
He sat down as soon as the national anthem was played and was asked to quickly rise to his feet.
Ronaldo was seen in the executive box (pictured) in the stands at Mrisul Park on Friday
He was joined in the box by his personal manager Ricardo Regufe, who negotiated the deal that would take the five-time Ballon d’Or winner to Al-Nasr.
He then stood with other dignitaries for the last few seconds when the national anthem was played.
The pitch looked like a quagmire in the pouring rain and the superstar striker was not happy playing in the tough conditions as slippery tackles went flying and the ball got stuck in the mud time and again.
Despite claims that the 28,000-seater stadium was sold out, Mrisul Park was half empty with empty yellow seats.
Al-Nassr fans curiously take pictures of the club’s new signing at Mrisul Park on Friday
A club source said this was possibly due to reports of Ronaldo being banned, as previously reported sportsmailThe fans had reached out – along with driving rain and cold temperatures.
The audience sang the name of their new hero as his image appeared on the stadium screens and he waved to him from behind a glass screen.
He was joined in the executive box in the stands by his personal manager, Ricardo Regufe, who reportedly negotiated his transfer to Al-Nassar.
According to Portuguese news outlet PublicoRegufe has replaced Ronaldo’s longtime agent Jorge Mendes as the former striker’s most trusted confidante.
Relations between Ronaldo and Mendes reportedly soured when Mendes objected to giving a blistering interview to 37-year-old Piers Morgan and it was later revealed that any hopes of the star finding another top club in Europe had vanished.
Ronaldo’s anticipated debut has been thrown into doubt as he has yet to complete a two-game ban he received by the FA for slapping a phone out of a young Everton fan’s hand during a game late last year.
Al-Nassar was considering playing the Portuguese superstar in defiance of the suspension, willing to pay any fines handed down to him by world governing body FIFA.
Former Manchester United star puts pen to paper on lucrative deal with Saudi club
In November, Ronaldo was fined £50,000 and banned for two games after he slapped a phone from the hand of a 14-year-old autistic boy at Goodison Park after Manchester United’s 1-0 win on 9 April. loss to everton
sportsmail It was revealed earlier this week that Al-Nassr had not confirmed he would accept the ban, which is supported by FIFA regulations, just before the match was postponed on Thursday.
However, Ronaldo’s international clearance certificate had been obtained by the club and its officials were investigating whether it could help him circumvent the banning order.
Without any explicit denials that the ban could be breached, it was believed that Al-Nassar was still hoping to pull on his yellow shirt and make his debut in the Saudi Pro League in what was believed to be a sellout crowd. .
However, ignoring the ban could have landed Ronaldo in more trouble and the club could have been heavily fined.
Ronaldo is yet to serve the two-match ban he was handed by the English Football Association in November for slapping a phone out of an Everton fan’s hand after a game last season.
It emerged on Thursday that the Saudis would have faced difficulties in fielding Ronaldo anyway after the club was unable to register the star after exceeding its foreign player quota.
Five-time Ballon d’Or winner Al-Nassar is the ninth import from overseas and club sources said talks are underway to sell an existing squad member to meet the limit of eight set by the Saudi Pro League.
“Al Nassr has not registered him yet because there is no vacancy for a foreign player,” an Al Nassr official told AFP.
‘A foreign player would have to leave to register Ronaldo, either by selling or terminating the contract by mutual consent.’
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