Football News

Cristiano Ronaldo: Lionel Messi and Karim Benzema are “welcome” in Saudi Arabia

By Ben Green

Published: 22:21, 1 June 2023

Cristiano Ronaldo has told Lionel Messi and Karim Benzema they are “welcome” in Saudi Arabia, while denying reports he wants to return to Europe.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has been forced to swat away suggestions he is getting cold feet and eyeing up a departure from the Saudi Pro League after his side, Al Nassr, failed to win the title — finishing five points below eventual champions Al-Ittihad.

Despite his failure to deliver instant silverware, Ronaldo was his typically prolific self, notching 14 goals in 19 games since moving to Riyadh following the termination of his contract with Manchester United in November 2022.

“I am happy and I want to continue and I will continue here,” Ronaldo told reporters. “Next season the team will be better. We have improved in the last 5 or 6 months, and I am confident that we will win titles soon.”

The Portuguese was then pressed on matters regarding the reputation of the Saudi Pro League, with Messi and Benzema both recently linked with a move to the division.

Former Real Madrid team-mate Benzema is reportedly inching towards a move to the Middle East this summer, with Al-Ittihad thought to be offering him a stratospheric wage package. Messi, likewise, has been linked with a move, with Al-Hilal one of the most prominent names.

On suggestions of the duo joining him in Saudi Arabia, Ronaldo said: “They are welcome…the league will improve, and it currently has wonderful foreign and Arab players.”

Links between Messi and the Saudi Pro League are only going to strengthen in the coming weeks after PSG manager Christophe Galtier confirmed the World Cup winner’s departure from the French capital this summer.

Ahead of PSG’s final Ligue 1 game of the 2022/23 season against Clermont Foot, Galtier said: “I had the privilege of coaching the best player in the history of football. It will be Leo’s last match at the Parc des Princes against Clermont [on June 3].”