Cristiano Ronaldo's Contract Doesn't Include World Cup Bid Promotion, Al Nassr Says

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 11, 2023

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA - JANAURY 10: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY - MANDATORY CREDIT - AL NASSR CLUB OF SAUDI ARABIA / HANDOUT' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) Cristiano Ronaldo of Al Nassr in action during training session of Al Nassr in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on January 10, 2023. (Photo by AL Nassr Club of Saudi Arabia/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
AL Nassr Club of Saudi Arabia/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

On Monday, the AFP reported that Cristiano Ronaldo's contract with football club Al Nassr included a World Cup ambassadorial role that would nearly double his salary as Saudi Arabia tries to win the event for 2030 (h/t Yahoo).

On Tuesday, Al Nassr denied the report:

AlNassr FC @AlNassrFC_EN

Al Nassr FC would like to clarify that contrary to news reports, Cristiano Ronaldo's contract with Al Nassr does not entail commitments to any World Cup bids.<br><br>His main focus is on Al Nassr and to work with his teammates to help the club achieve success.

"Ronaldo will be paid more than €200 million [$214 million] for the deal," a source told the French news agency. "He will be an ambassador for the Saudi World Cup 2030 bid for another €200 million."

That source also said that Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund—the Public Investment Fund, which also financially backs LIV Golf; owns 80 percent of the English Premier's League's Newcastle United; and holds sponsorships with Formula One, stakes in the world of esports and a partnership with the WWE, among other ties to the sports and entertainment world—was the impetus for Al Nassr to sign a global icon such as Ronaldo.

"[Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his brothers] Naif, Turki and Rakan, the sons of King Salman, are all honorary members of Al Nassr since before their father even became the crown prince," the source said. "They wanted to grant their beloved club supremacy and put it in the international spotlight. The best way was to bring the best player in the world."

Advocacy groups have accused the Saudis of using the PIF as a sportswashing tool in an effort to gloss over the country's history of human-rights abuses. Landing the World Cup would seemingly be in line with that alleged effort and would make Saudi Arabia just the second Arab nation to host the event after Qatar last year.

To date, two official bids for 2030—a joint bid from Spain, Portugal and Ukraine and a joint bid from Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay and Chile—have been entered. Morocco is also reportedly bidding, though it likely would only be considered if a cross-continent bid from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Greece falls through.

The 2026 event will be played in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

As for Ronaldo, the former Real Madrid, Manchester United and Juventus star will make his debut with his new club during an exhibition match against Paris Saint-Germain on Jan. 19, as Al Nassr manager Rudi Garcia told reporters Monday.

"The only thing I want is for him to enjoy playing football again and smile," Garcia 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."