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Saudi Arabian Pro League expected to make big-money offer for Cristiano Ronaldo

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo attends a training session on the eve of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 group H soccer match against Ghana, at Al-Shahaniya SC Training Center, near Doha, Qatar, 23 November 2022 - JOSE SENA GOULAO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo attends a training session on the eve of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 group H soccer match against Ghana, at Al-Shahaniya SC Training Center, near Doha, Qatar, 23 November 2022 - JOSE SENA GOULAO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to receive a lucrative offer to play in Saudi Arabia’s Pro League and could be used as the face of a bid to host the World Cup in 2030.

The 37-year-old, who will join his next club on a free transfer after leaving Manchester United, turned down a proposal from Al-Hilal last summer worth more than £125 million per year as he wanted to move to a Champions League team.

It is understood that interest from the Middle East still remains and clubs would look at the five-time Ballon D’Or winner again now he is on the market after his return to United turned sour.

Saudi Arabia has yet to confirm a bid for the World Cup in four years’ time but have been widely reported to be looking at hosting with Egypt and Greece. Ronaldo being in their country would have a star role should they look to stage the biggest tournament in the world.

They have an agreement with Lionel Messi to promote tourism in the country, and the Al-Hilal bid in the summer showed the country is serious about signing up the biggest stars and hosting high-profile events.

As reported by Telegraph Sport, United were determined for Ronaldo’s departure to be on their terms and the club got their way on Tuesday when it was announced that it was “mutually agreed” that his contract was terminated.

Ronaldo is set to focus on the World Cup and captaining Portugal for the next three weeks before attention switches to his next club. Saudi Arabia’s shock victory against Messi’s Argentina was celebrated in the country and their success can help future signings to the country.

European teams are currently assessing their January targets during the mid-season break from club football and Ronaldo will feature in conversations about whether he would be worth investing in for the rest of the campaign and beyond.

Ronaldo banned for two games over phone incident

By James Ducker

Ronaldo will be banned for the first two games of any new club he joins after he was punished for “petulantly” slapping a phone out of the hand of a teenage Everton fan in April.

He was hit with a two-match suspension by an FA independent disciplinary commission on Wednesday for his behaviour at Goodison Park.

Ronaldo was walking down the tunnel at the end of United’s 1-0 defeat when he slapped a mobile out of the hand of a 14-year-old Everton fan who was filming him. The player argued he had been concerned for his own safety after spotting someone holding an object, did not intend to hurt anyone and only found out later the person holding the object was a boy.

Since Ronaldo has now left United, the commission said the ban would apply at any new club he joins in the Premier League or be transferred to a new association if he was to move overseas.

“The suspension we have imposed must have effect,” the commission said in their written findings and referenced article 12.1 of Fifa’s regulations that stipulate: “Any disciplinary sanction of up to four matches or up to three months that has been imposed on a player by the former association but not yet (entirely) served by the time of the transfer shall be enforced by the new association at which the player has been registered in order for the sanction to be served at domestic level.”

The ban would have been three matches but in mitigation it was acknowledged that Ronaldo had immediately admitted the charge, apologised publicly and that the incident was out of character. He was also fined £50,000 and warned about his future conduct.

The three-man commission, which was chaired by Christopher Quinlan KC and included former players Stuart Ripley and Tony Agana, rejected Ronaldo’s claims that Ronaldo reacted because of “legitimate concern … for his own physical safety and well-being”.

They said Ronaldo’s behaviour was “both improper” and “violent” and described it as a “deliberate and forceful slap down” and a “petulant act” that caused damage to the mobile and “reddening” to the fan’s hand.

Ronaldo, who was cautioned by the police over the matter after admitting offences of battery and criminal damage and ordered to pay £200 in compensation to the teenager, had admitted an FA charge of improper and/or violent conduct but requested a hearing which took place via Microsoft Teams on Nov. 8.

Ronaldo had told the hearing that he felt “uncomfortable” approaching the tunnel and that the crowd were aggressive and abusive towards him and his United team-mates.

He said he caught sight of an arm “quite low in front of him pointing towards his injured leg” and that he “could not see to whom the arm belonged, but could see it was ‘holding an object’ but he did not know what.” “He said his instinctive reaction was to slap ‘the object away’,” the commission said. “He said this incident was ‘an instinctively proactive reaction’.”

The teenage supporter said Ronaldo acted without provocation and hit his hand “very hard” and the boy’s mother said she was “disgusted and shocked”. A witness said they saw Ronaldo slap the phone out of the boy’s hand and felt it was “overly hard” and another witness said the incident was unprovoked. A police officer present said he saw the boy “recording [the player’s] leg and laughing” before Ronaldo slapped the phone to the ground. The boy’s mother later received a text from Ronaldo, who invited her to contact her, invited her son to a match as a guest and apologised on Instagram.

David Newell, United’s protection and security manager, said the Everton fans were “very abusive” towards the United players and saw some liquid thrown and argued that from a “crowd management and player safety perspective the situation was dangerous for [the United] players”. United’s technical director Darren Fletcher was also a character witness for Ronaldo.