Al Ittihad win Saudi league as Ronaldo ends season at Al Nassr without silverware

Jeddah club crowned domestic champions for first time since 2009 with one round to spare

Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 14 goals in 16 league matches but was unable to fire Al Nassr to the Saudi Pro League title. AFP
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Cristiano Ronaldo’s hopes of winning the Saudi Pro League title with Al Nassr were extinguished on Saturday night when Al Ittihad were crowned champions for the first time in 14 years.

Requiring one victory from their final two matches, the Jeddah club triumphed 3-0 at Al Fayha to secure the top-flight crown with one round to spare.

Nassr, second for the past couple of months and just about keeping pace with their title rivals, could only draw 1-1 at Al Ettifaq, confirming the Riyadh side will finish the season as runners-up. The 2022/23 campaign concludes on Tuesday.

Ronaldo, 38, was signed in late December in a hugely lucrative deal, with the expectation he would help fire Nassr to a first league title in four years. Nassr were top of the table when Ronaldo made his competitive debut, ironically against Ettifaq, on January 22.

However, despite scoring 14 goals in 16 league matches, the Portuguese forward will end his debut season without silverware. In January, Nassr lost the Saudi Super Cup to Ittihad, while in April they were eliminated from the King’s Cup semi-finals by Al Wehda.

Ronaldo, who joined Nassr having been released from his contract by Manchester United, signed a two-and-a-half-year deal with the Saudi club.

On Saturday, Nassr went behind just before half-time when Youssef Niakate scored from close range. Luiz Gustavo, the former Bayern Munich midfielder, drew his side level on 56 minutes, but even victory would not have been enough. Ronaldo was subbed off with six minutes remaining.

Speaking afterwards, Gustavo told Saudi channel SSC: “We expected to achieve the league, but unfortunately we did not achieve it, and now we need to think about the future.”

Ittihad, meanwhile, sealed a first domestic championship since 2009 – their ninth overall - on Saturday thanks to Ahmed Sharahili’s early strike and a double from former Al Jazira frontman Romarinho.

The team, who now qualify for the 2023 Fifa Club World Cup in Saudi Arabia, are managed by Nuno Espirito Santo.

Speaking immediately after the trophy was captured, the former Tottenham Hotspur manager said: “I want to thank the players and the fans for their support this season - everyone has worked very hard from the beginning."

Updated: May 28, 2023, 7:23 AM