Cristiano Ronaldo could make Al Nassr debut in friendly against Lionel Messi and Paris Saint-Germain in January
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Cristiano Ronaldo could make Al Nassr debut in friendly against Lionel Messi and Paris Saint-Germain in January

Al Nassr coach Rudi Garcia has revealed Cristiano Ronaldo’s debut in Saudi Arabia will be as part of an exhibition side in a friendly against Paris Saint-Germain, which could pit him against Lionel Messi.

The forward has been serving a Football Association suspension for knocking a phone out of a young supporter’s hand following Manchester United’s defeat at Everton in April.

It has delayed Ronaldo’s much-anticipated bow, which is now expected to come in a showcase match with PSG in Riyadh on January 19, complicating Garcia’s planning for domestic objectives.

“It won’t be with the Al Nassr jersey,” the 58-year-old explained. “It will be a mix between Al Hilal and Al Nassr.

“As the coach of Al Nassr, I cannot be happy with this match. For development, to see PSG, to see the great Parisian players, indeed it is a good thing. But we have a championship game three days later.

“In terms of scheduling, it could have been better thought out. But it’s not a big deal… We are in the lead, we are happy. It is a difficult championship to win, but we intend to do it.”.

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  • Garcia has also indicated his task is to help Ronaldo fall in love with the game again after a turbulent year.

    “The only thing I want is for him to enjoy playing football again and smile,” he said.

    “In recent months, between Manchester United, the national team and also at a private level, he has not had easy moments.

    “If he finds the pleasure of playing again, a good goal will be achieved.”.

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    Garcia compared Ronaldo’s arrival in Saudi Arabia to Pele’s transformative link-up with the New York Cosmos in 1975, which sparked massive interest in football in the United States.

    “It’s a bit like Pele’s arrival, especially for the development of football, sport and culture in Saudi Arabia,” Garcia said.

    “It’s great. Great for us, for Al-Nassr. Great for Saudi Arabia,” said Frenchman Garcia. “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 to 10m [followers] in a few hours, a few days, because of Cristiano’s arrival.”.

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    In this photo provided by Al Nassr Club, Cristiano Ronaldo arrives at Riyadh International Airport, late Monday, Jan. 2, 2023. Ronaldo completed a lucrative move to Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr on Friday in a deal that is a landmark moment for Middle Eastern soccer but will see one of Europe's biggest stars disappear from the sport's elite stage. (Courtesy of Al Nassr Club via AP)

    Image: Ronaldo greeted Al Nassr fans at the airport as he arrived in Saudi Arabia

    Follow the January transfer window with Sky Sports

    Who will be on the move this winter? The January transfer window opened on Sunday January 1, 2023 and closes at 11pm on Tuesday January 31, 2023.

    Keep up-to-date with all the latest transfer news and rumours in our dedicated Transfer Centre blog on Sky Sports’ digital platforms. You can also catch up with the ins, outs and analysis on Sky Sports News.

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