When Cristiano Ronaldo signed a two and a half year deal with Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr on Friday, the Portuguese legend put pen to paper on a contract worth $75 million annually, meaning he'll almost certainly still be the world's highest paid footballer when he turns 40 on Feb. 5, 2025.
It's easy to understand why Ronaldo accepted the challenge of the Roshn Saudi League and life in the capital city of Riyadh, although it still came as a surprise after falling out at Manchester United for criticizing the club for failing to match his sporting ambition.
That's not to say there aren't clear objectives for Ronaldo in Saudi Arabia: Al-Nassr is historically in the shadow of city rivals Al-Hilal, winners of the last three league titles, but Ronaldo's side is currently top of the table after 11 games. Al-Nassr has also never won the AFC Champions League. Most importantly, if Ronaldo keeps scoring at his ridiculous pace in both competitions then he'll ultimately hit the personal milestone of 1,000 career goals.
Being able to watch any of that is an entirely different matter here in the United States. If you want to watch Ronaldo's odyssey with Al-Nassr, you'll have to sign up for Shahid at $18 per month or $160 for the year.
Interestingly enough, this was one area where Major League Soccer was leading the race to sign Ronaldo. According to a report by Sam McDowell in the Kansas City Star, MLS's new TV deal with Apple, with games being broadcast in over 100 countries next year, was a significant factor in discussions between Sporting Kansas City and Ronaldo's top representatives.
If you haven't heard yet, as Fabrizio Romano and Taylor Twellman both reported, it was Kansas City that came closest to signing Ronaldo in MLS. Although Inter Miami and the LA Galaxy both made approaches, Sporting actually had many meetings with Ronaldo's camp — an agent for Ronaldo actually said, "If he decides to come to the States, you're everything that fits the mold for him."
According to McDowell, Sporting had Ronaldo sold on the club, the city and even had Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes doing everything in his power to help. SKC even got close to matching Saudi Arabia's $75 million offer by offering to make him the highest-paid in MLS (so more than Lorenzo Insigne's $14 million) with a "commercial package" that included a bunch of other methods for driving revenue and income.
"It took on real legs," admitted Sporting manager Peter Vermes. "When we progressed to the commercial side, and what that might look like, that's when it started to feel like there's a possibility here. There was a lot of time invested — from both sides — and they're not going to waste their time sitting down, having all these Zoom calls, going through all these different scenarios, if the player is not interested."
As disappointing as it is that Ronaldo's not going to Children's Mercy Park, the report does reveal that another European star has already reached out to Sporting regarding a move.