Ronaldo signing with Al-Nassr is Sportswashing

Liam French ’25

Just days before the 2022 Qatar World Cup, Ronaldo’s contract with Premier league team Manchester United was terminated. After appearing in an interview with Piers Morgan on November 16 slandering his club, Ronaldo breached his contract with Manchester United. He accused his employers of betrayal and heavily disrespected the head coaches. 

“Not only by the coach (Erik ten Hag), but also by two or three other people around the club, I feel betrayed,” Ronaldo complained. “Some people, I feel, don’t want me here.”

“While it may seem like Ronaldo had been mistreated by his own team, that is simply the way any sort of constructive criticism would sound to a primadonna football player.”

Liam French ’25

While it may seem like Ronaldo had been mistreated by his own team, that is simply the way any sort of constructive criticism would sound to a primadonna football player. 

There is no doubt that Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the world’s best football players. Hailing from Portugal and appearing in 196 international games representing his country, Ronaldo has played in five World Cups and is Europe’s most capped player. Ronaldo holds the world record for goals scored. 

The question is, if Ronaldo was one of Manchester United’s Most Valuable Players, then why did he switch teams, and why was everyone on Man U supposedly praying on Ronaldo’s downfall? Well, with the type of publicity, fame, and money someone like Ronaldo gets, an ego, and the belief that everything is supposed to be about you, is sure to follow. His Manchester United teammates reported on his overall toxic behavior, which put pressure on the team to finally drop him. 

After Ronaldo’s interview, Manchester finally had a legal reason to remove him from their roster and send him off. He had received many offers from all over the world: Australia, Brazil, and his home country, Portugal. Obviously, he didn’t take any of them because none of them paid as much as the oil money from Saudi Arabian sheiks. 

On January 1, 2023, Cristiano Ronaldo signed a two-and-a-half-year contract with Saudi Arabian football club Al-Nassr. 

After a disappointing World Cup performance, Ronaldo had to sit and watch the world’s most liked player, Lionel Messi, have an incredible tournament and win the Golden Ball, in addition to the World Cup itself. As for Ronaldo, Portugal’s elimination in the quarter finals prevented him from ever winning the World Cup and completing his football goal. 

The time spent in Qatar during the world cup most likely influenced Ronaldo’s decision to sign with a Saudi team. However, since signing with the team, Ronaldo has not been performing well, and the team recently lost the Saudi Super Cup 3-1 against Al Ittihad. After this upsetting defeat, a video of the Al Nassr coach throwing a fit went viral. 

“I spent 200 million euros, and he only knows how to say, ‘Siuu,’” he yelled. 

Additionally, videos of fans stomping on his number 7 jersey have sprung up, and his fanbase is slowly turning on him. 

“Shouldn’t Ronaldo being on Al Nassr be a good thing?”

Liam French ’25

Shouldn’t Ronaldo being on Al Nassr be a good thing? After all, he is one of the world’s best players. Well, Saudi Arabia isn’t exactly known for its soccer, and what it is known for is not very pretty: human rights abuses and oil. Saudi Arabia uses sports to whitewash its name and reputation. They host golf tournaments, chess championships, tennis tournaments, and for the next ten years Formula One will host their championship in the country. With the purchase of Ronaldo, Saudi Arabia draws the world’s eye to its soccer teams, not the country itself. Sportswashing is defined as an attempt to distract from, minimize, or normalize wrongdoing through engagement in sport. Sportswashing isn’t just local to Saudi Arabia or Qatar’s 2022 World Cup; it occurred recently in 2018 when Russia hosted the 2018 World Cup while Putin was under scrutiny for being a dictator and controlling the country’s election. 

Ronaldo’s deal with Al Nassr will not be his final deal. He aims to eventually go back to Europe and end his hiatus in the Middle East. As for now, Ronaldo can only play soccer and wait out his contract.