Cristiano Ronaldo 's planned debut in Saudi Arabia could not be for new club Al-Nassr, but instead a Saudi All-Star team who will take on PSG.
The exhibition fixture will take place on January 19 and could be the first time we see the forward in action since Portugal's World Cup exit. PSG will be in the midst of a winter tour and have confirmed the fixture, which will take place at the King Fahd Stadium in Riyadh
Ronaldo has not played any domestic football for almost two months following his acrimonious departure from Manchester United. It was his antics whilst playing for the Red Devils that have delayed his debut. Ronaldo slapped a phone out of a young fans hand and was given a two-match ban, which he has had to serve in Saudi Arabia, thus delaying his bow for Al-Nassr.
The fact his first game in the Middle East will not be for his new club, who have paid fortunes to bring him to the kingdom, has greatly angered manager Rudi Garcia. “As coach of Al-Nassr, I cannot be happy with this match,” he said. “We have a league game three days later.”
Al-Nassr face Al-Ettifaq, which could be Ronaldo's first run out for the new league leaders. Garcia's side won at the weekend whilst their nearest rivals lost for just the second time this season.
The Al-Nassr boss, whilst clearly frustrated by Ronaldo's potential involvement in the All-Star game, does accept that the 37-year-old's arrival in the country has changed the dynamic. “It’s a bit like Pele’s arrival (in what was then the North American Soccer League),” he said. “Especially for the development of football, sport and culture in Saudi Arabia.”
“It’s great. Great for us, for Al-Nassr. Great for Saudi Arabia. Cristiano Ronaldo is more than a player. He is one of the best players in the world. It’s amazing how much it’s put a spotlight on our club. Now everyone knows where our club is around the world. We must have gone from 800,000 (followers) to 10 million in a few hours, a few days, because of Cristiano’s arrival.
Garcia also added on Ronaldo's character amid suggestions he has upset recent dressing rooms: “The greatest champions are the easiest to manage. He blended in with the squad. We saw him joking and laughing with pleasure with his new teammates. He was with us for the last game, even if he couldn’t play. He was in the locker room, riding his bike.”