Ronaldo debut delayed to serve FA suspension

Al-Nassr's new Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo (C-L), his partner Georgina Rodriguez (C-R) and his children stand on the stage during his unveiling at the Mrsool Park Stadium in the Saudi capital Riyadh on January 3, 2023. 

Cristiano Ronaldo will make his Al Nassr debut on 22 January against Ettifaq, confirmed manager Rudi Garcia.

The Portugal forward was unveiled by the Saudi club last week but is suspended after knocking a phone out of a fan’s hand following Manchester United’s defeat by Everton in April.

The 37-year-old missed the first game of the Football Association’s two-match ban on Friday.

But he could feature in an exhibition match against Paris St-Germain.

Lionel Messi’s side will take on a team made up of players from Al Nassr and Al Hilal in Riyadh on 19 January, and Garcia told L’Equipe that Ronaldo is likely to feature.

“It [Ronaldo’s debut] won’t be with the Al Nassr jersey. It will be a mix between Al Hilal and Al Nassr,” he said.

He will make his first Al Nassr appearance in the Saudi Pro League later that week against Ettifaq.

Ronaldo, who signed a lucrative deal with the Saudi club until 2025 reportedly worth more than £177m per year, will miss their league game against Al Shabab on Saturday.

Former Lille and Lyon coach Garcia said he hopes Ronaldo can rediscover the enjoyment of playing football after a difficult two-month period during which his United contract was terminated and Portugal lost in the World Cup quarter-finals.

The star left United following a controversial interview in which he criticised the club.

“In recent months, between Manchester United, the national team and also at a private level, he has not had easy moments,” Garcia said.

“If he finds the pleasure of playing again, it will be a good goal to achieve.”

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