Cristiano Ronaldo has been shown there are no hard feelings after he was immediately made Al-Nassr captain.
The 37-year-old made his long-awaited debut for his new team, some three weeks after his eye-watering contract was agreed. He had hoped to start immediately, but was forced to sit on the sidelines following a two-match ban imposed by the English FA.
But with that suspension served, Ronaldo was handed his first start when Al-Nassr took Ettifaq in Riyadh. And not only was the former Manchester United star put into the starting line-up, he was instantly made skipper.
The decision to name him captain was an interesting one, after months of debate surrounding that possibility occurring at Old Trafford. During his time back in the Premier League, there were various reports of dressing room splits, with many believing the Portuguese icon should be given the role of Harry Maguire.
Ronaldo was given the armband on occasions, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Ralf Rangnick and then Erik ten Hag all neglected to make the switch a permanent one. Rudi Garcia clearly didn’t share that hesitancy and allowed his new superstar to lead the team out at the Mrsool Park Stadium.
Garcia’s decision was a potentially risky one in changing the captain midway through a title challenge. Al-Nassr were already firmly in contention at the top of the table before Ronaldo’s arrival, hoping for a first league triumph since 2019.
Abudullah Madu was the man to lose out on the captaincy despite being at the club for more than a decade. The Saudi Arabian international has been with Al-Nassr since 2012, lifting the Pro League title on three occasions.
He remained in the line-up for the game with Ettifaq and helped his side to a clean sheet during the narrow 1-0 victory. And if there was any resentment to losing his previous job, he hid it well.
Madu was one of the first players to respond to Ronaldo’s Instagram post following the win, which read: “First game, first win - well done guys. Thanks to all the fans for incredible support,” with the Saudi defender putting blue and yellow heart emojis - the colours of Al-Nassr - in the replies.
Ronaldo had another team-mate to thank for helping him get a debut victory with Anderson Talisca scoring the only goal. The Brazilian was the star of the show and proved it wouldn’t all be about their new global superstar.
In fact, Ronaldo’s new manager admitted that Ronaldo and his team would need to adapt to having both forwards in the lineup: “It’s very important for the players to play normally and not always try to give the ball to Cristiano. I told them they need to make the right choices on the pitch,” Garcia said.
"Obviously when Cristiano or Talisca are alone and asking for the ball we need to give them the ball. These two players are able to make the difference.
“Tonight, I think that sometimes we had good positions to cross but not enough people in the box – and sometimes no Ronaldo and no Talisca. We need to work on that, to have one of them in the box and maybe the other playing outside the box.”