In a recent statement to the media, Cristiano Ronaldo, the renowned footballer currently playing for Al Nassr in the Saudi Pro League, expressed his belief that the Saudi league surpasses Major League Soccer (MLS). The comments came after his team’s 5-0 friendly defeat against La Liga’s Celta Vigo. Ronaldo’s opinion has sparked discussions among football enthusiasts and sports enthusiasts, shedding light on the current state of both leagues.
- Ronaldo’s Praise for Saudi Pro League: Cristiano Ronaldo, the world’s highest-paid player, responded candidly when asked about potentially joining Lionel Messi in MLS. He firmly asserted, “No,” stating that he considers the Saudi Pro League far superior to the United States MLS.
- Earnings and Deals: Ronaldo’s lucrative annual income of £175 million ($217.4 million) significantly influences his preference for the Saudi Pro League. Reports suggest that Al Nassr pays only a portion of his salary, with the Saudi state covering the rest. On the other hand, Lionel Messi signed a deal with Inter Miami through 2025, with an option to extend until 2026. The deal is reportedly worth around $50-60 million annually, including the franchise’s equity value.
- Reaction from MLS: Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber stated that he is “not threatened” by the rising influence of the Saudi Professional League in the global football landscape. Garber emphasized the league’s historical growth and how it has impacted football worldwide.
Ronaldo’s comments have generated considerable interest and debate, given his and Messi’s remarkable careers in European club football. Both players have ventured into leagues beyond Europe, hoping to leave their mark on ambitious ventures in other parts of the world. Ronaldo’s move to Saudi Arabia was among the first superstars joining the league. At the same time, Messi’s decision to play in MLS aims to boost the sport’s popularity in the United States.
Comparing the Saudi Pro League to MLS, sports intelligence agency Twenty-First Group ranked the SPL 59th globally, with MLS securing the 29th position. Some experts have drawn parallels between the star-driven approach to growth in the Saudi league and the Chinese Super League’s previous trajectory.
As two of football’s greatest players expand their horizons, discussions about the quality and impact of their new leagues will persist. While players of their stature are unlikely to admit playing in perceived “lesser” competitions, their moves overseas have added new dimensions to their iconic careers. The clash of Messi and Ronaldo in these emerging markets adds intrigue and excitement to the ongoing saga of their rivalry and legacy in football.