Al Nassr striker Cristiano Ronaldo said the Saudi Pro League “is better” than MLS and that he has no plans to play in the United States or return to a team in Europe.
Ronaldo was speaking to the media after playing the first half of Al Nassr’s 5-0 preseason loss to LaLiga side Celta Vigo in his native Portugal.
“The Saudi league is better than MLS,” the Portugal star said when asked about making a move to the U.S. like his former rival in Spain Lionel Messi, who was unveiled as an Inter Miami CF player on Sunday.
Ronaldo, who was substituted at half-time with the score tied 0-0, added: “I opened the way to the Saudi league, and now all the players are coming here.”
Already this summer, a number of high-profile players have indeed followed Ronaldo’s lead, with Karim Benzema, Marcelo Brozovic, N’Golo Kante and Roberto Firmino all signing deals to play in the Saudi Pro League. Former Inter Milan player Brozovic was on the field with Ronaldo on Monday after joining Al Nassr on July 3.
“In one year, more and more top players will come to Saudi. In a year the Saudi league will overtake the Turkish league and Dutch league,” Ronaldo added.
The 38-year-old is heading into his first full season with Al Nassr since joining the club in January following an acrimonious departure after his second stint at Manchester United.
Ronaldo, the Real Madrid’s all-time leading goalscorer, also said his days of playing in Europe are over and that he believes the level of play there has dropped in recent years.
“I’m 100 percent sure I won’t return to any European club,” Ronaldo said. “I’m 38 years old. And European football has lost a lot of quality. The only valid one and still doing good is the Premier League. They’re way ahead of all the other leagues.”
The game was also the first in charge at Celta Vigo for former Valencia and Liverpool coach Rafa Benitez, who was hired by the Spanish club in June following a 13th-place finish in LaLiga last season.
Al Nassr will play their second friendly in Portugal on Thursday, taking on domestic champions Benfica.
“The plan was for me to play 45 minutes today,” Ronaldo said. “Against Benfica, I might play 60 or 70 minutes. It is better to fine-tune the machine little by little to reach the best form.”