Cristiano Ronaldo's Move To Saudi Arabia Underscores Kingdom's Soccer Ambitions, China's Decline

While Cristiano Ronaldo‘s splashy move to join Saudi Arabia club Al Nassr on a lucrative compensation package last month was the talk of the town, the Saudi switch of the five-time Ballon d’Or winner also brought attention to an Asian football shift.

What Happened: Since the beginning of the previous decade, the Chinese Super League, or CSL, has lured many elite players and coaches to the Asian nation, but thanks to COVID-19, it spared all ambitions. 

See Also: 5 Things You Might Not Know About Soccer Superstar Lionel Messi

The signing of Brazilian duo Oscar and Hulk in 2016 for massive combined transfer fees of about $141.27 million highlighted the Shanghai SIPG’s intent that had already attracted World Cup-winning coaches Marcello Lippi and Luiz Felipe Scolari.

Ronaldo and Lionel Messi were time and again linked with the league as well.

This also led to concerns about overspending, following which the authorities tightened regulations. However, they made no efforts to cool speculation in 2018 that the football elites were China-bound.

Five years down the line, much has changed. Ronaldo striker joined the Saudi Arabian club after his contract with Manchester United was terminated in November. 

Meanwhile, the money-pouring, often debt-fueled property developers faced severe challenges, including Jiangsu Suning, which dissolved in early 2021, months after winning the CSL title for the first time. 

While China eased restrictions last month, massive damage has already been done to Beijing football ambitions. Now, they are focused on seeing what the oil-funded riches have to offer in a newly assertive Saudi Arabia. 

Check out more of Benzinga’s Europe and Asia coverage by following this link.

Market News and Data brought to you by Benzinga APIs
Posted In: NewsSportsGlobalGeneralAl NassrChinese Super LeagueCristiano RonaldoEurasiaLionel MessiManchester UnitedSaudi Arabia
Benzinga simplifies the market for smarter investing

Trade confidently with insights and alerts from analyst ratings, free reports and breaking news that affects the stocks you care about.

Join Now: Free!