Cristiano Ronaldo failed to score in his Saudi Pro League debut for Al-Nassr, but his presence electrified fans at King Saud University Stadium as the team beat Ettifaq 1-0 to retake first place on Sunday.
Talisca headed the winner in the 31st minute when Abdulmajeed Al-Sulaiheem’s cross was too high for Ronaldo, who didn’t seem to mind as he wheeled around to celebrate with the Brazilian midfielder and the rest of his new teammates.
Al-Nassr, which has played 14 games, moved a point ahead of defending champion Al-Hilal, which has played a game more.
On Thursday, Ronaldo played for a combined XI from Al-Nassr and Al-Hilal in an exhibition game against a Paris Saint-Germain team featuring old foe Lionel Messi.
Ronaldo, a five-time Ballon d’Or winner who starred for Real Madrid, Juventus and Manchester United, signed a deal to June 2025 with Al-Nassr, after rejecting offers from Europe, North America and beyond.
Ronaldo had been a free agent after his contract was terminated by Manchester United following an explosive TV interview in which he criticized manager Erik ten Hag and the club’s owners after having been repeatedly benched and even temporarily suspended by the club.
He also came off a disappointing World Cup where he was benched in the knockout rounds and left the field in tears after Portugal lost in the quarterfinals to Morocco.
Saudi Arabia earned its biggest international football win ever at the World Cup in neighboring Qatar when it beat eventual champion Argentina in its first group-stage game.