Jamie Carragher's criticism of Cristiano Ronaldo transfer to Saudi Arabia appears to have prompted Al-Nassr to change their contract plan for the megastar.
Ronaldo completed an eye-catching move to the Saudi Arabian club earlier this month and is expected to earn around £173million per year. But the Portuguese forward has failed to impress so far as his side were dumped out of the Saudi Super Cup by close rivals Al-Ittihad on Thursday, with captain Ronaldo blanking once again following his goalless debut appearance the previous Sunday.
Less than a week away from his 38th birthday, it has not been the ideal start for Ronaldo in the latest venture in his career. After stating that his journey in European football was ‘over’, he may not end his career in the Middle East after all.
Upon his unveiling at Al-Nassr, Ronaldo had gone definitive on his future: "In Europe, my work is done. I had many offers in Europe, many in Brazil, Australia, the US, even in Portugal. Many clubs tried to sign me but I gave my word to this club, for the opportunity to have not only football but (to be) part of this amazing country. And for me, it was a challenge."
Ronaldo added: "I am fortunate that I have won everything I set out to win in European football. I feel now that this is the right moment to share my experience in Asia."
Carragher was far from convinced and he did not hold back on criticising Ronaldo's bombshell interview with Piers Morgan that ended his relationship with Manchester United by mutual consent in November and which effectively ended his chances of continuing to play in European football.
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"In some ways, it's a sad end for him, Carragher explained to Sky Sports. "Two of the greatest players in Messi and Ronaldo - Ronaldo has finished his career during an interview with Piers Morgan and Messi has won the World Cup. It's not the best way to go out."
That criticism of Ronaldo bowing out of European football, which was shared by many others analysing the move, seems to have led to somewhat of a change of tact when the striker’s future is discussed.
Al-Nassr boss Rudi Garcia has even claimed that Ronaldo will return to European football – an outright contradiction of Ronaldo’s previous stance: “He is one of the best players in the world. He will not finish his career at Al-Nassr, he will return to Europe.”
Ronaldo had always been adamant that he wanted to continue playing at the top level of European football for as long as possible. During that decisive interview with Morgan, recorded just six weeks before his move to Al-Nassr, he insisted that remaining on the continent was a priority for him.
"If it was just about money, you'd be in Saudi Arabia earning this king's ransom, but that's not what motivates you," Morgan preened at Ronaldo, before adding: "You want to keep at the top." Ronaldo, in nodding acknowledgement, responded: "Exactly."
Ronaldo has failed to score in his opening two competitive matches for his new club and while there is little chance of him not being selected based on performances, both Al-Nassr and the striker will be hoping to find the right formula to accommodate him in their system.