Al Nassr boss Rudi Garcia aims to make 'legend' Cristiano Ronaldo happy

Frenchman looking forward to working with Portuguese striker at Saudi Arabian club

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Al Nassr manager Rudi Garcia says his primary focus is ensuring “legend” Cristiano Ronaldo enjoys both his time on the pitch and winning with his new club.

Ronaldo, one of the finest footballers in history, was introduced on Tuesday night at the Saudi Arabian league leaders having last week agreed to a two-and-a-half-year contract.

Widespread reports claim the former Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus forward will earn north of $200 million per year – although Nassr have, predictably, decided not to confirm nor vehemently deny the speculation.

Ronaldo, 37, completed his medical in Riyadh on Tuesday before later heading a press conference at Nassr’s Mrsool Park. Afterwards, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner was given a hero’s welcome on the pitch in front of 25,000 supporters, where he later trained for the first time with his teammates.

Sitting alongside Ronaldo at the media briefing, Garcia opened his remarks by saying he was “very happy” with Nassr’s star acquisition.

Cristiano is one of the best players in the world,” Garcia said. “In the history of football, he’s a legend. It’s an honour for sure for me, but also for Al Nassr to welcome Cristiano.

“I’m sure that for [the Saudi Pro] League and also the kingdom of Saudi Arabia it’s really a fantastic thing that Cristiano has come with us to play.”

Frenchman Garcia, who previously managed Roma, Lyon and Marseille among other teams, joined the capital club in June and has since guided his side to the top of the table.

After 11 matches, Nassr hold a one-point lead over second-placed Al Shabab (Shabab have played a game fewer) as they go in search of a 10th top-flight title – and first since 2019.

Ronaldo, a five-time Uefa Champions League winner and domestic champion seven times overall through stints in England, Spain and Italy, is not expected to debut for Nassr on Thursday when they host Al Ta’ee in the league.

“In my life, I’ve seen that the great, great players like Cristiano are the most simple players to manage,” Garcia said. “Because there is nothing I can teach Cristiano. We will share our experience and like he said, we are here to win, nothing else.

“Yes, we will have time to speak about a lot of things. But the most important thing is [the pitch] and we need to train, we need to win, and we need to play here.”

As to the impact Ronaldo could have on, not only the Saudi league, but football throughout the region, Garcia said: “He’s an example. Everyone knows that.

“My goal, my objective, for Cristiano is to make him happy. I want him to enjoy playing with Al Nassr, and enjoy winning with Al Nassr. Just that.”

Updated: January 04, 2023, 7:03 AM