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01st Jan 2023

Rio Ferdinand defends Cristiano Ronaldo’s Saudi Arabia move

Callum Boyle

Ronaldo joined Al Nassr on Friday

Rio Ferdinand has passionately defended Cristiano Ronaldo’s recent move to Saudi Arabia.

Ronaldo was officially unveiled by Al Nassr on Friday, ending weeks of speculation as to where he would end up after leaving Manchester United by mutual consent.

The 37-year-old has signed a lucrative deal estimated to be in the region of £175m a year and as part of a clause in his contract, will take on an ambassadorial role and promote Saudi Arabia’s bid to co-host the World Cup alongside Greece and Egypt.

For many, Ronaldo’s move represents a sad decline of a player – who for so long, has been dubbed as one of the greatest of all time – however for Ferdinand, he is quite the opposite.

Rather than seeing it as a backwards step, Ronaldo’s former United teammate has compared the move to the ones Wayne Rooney and David Beckham made by joining the MLS in the USA towards the back end of their careers.

“It was great to see David Beckham, Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, it was great to see them go to America,” he said on his Vibe with Five podcast.

“What a way to finish their careers, getting great money, going to a league that’s not as competitive, they’ve deserved that, they’ve earned the right.

“That’s all I saw in the media. But because it’s Saudi Arabia, it’s a disgrace, its sad. Let a man go and live, let a man go and enjoy it. It’s a new adventure he’s taking his family to experience a new culture.

“Every single country in the world has its issues, so America have got less issues than Saudi, have they? But its fine for all these players to go to America. Let’s let them go to the States and have a swansong year and just toss it off.

“I don’t like it. It stinks we’re not hearing this type of talk. It’s out of order.

“Everyone should be treated the same. Every other player that’s gone to a less competitive league to end their career has been told you’ve earned the right. No man on the planet would have earned the right more than this guy.”

Ferdinand’s views are polar opposite to the likes of Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher, both of whom compared Ronaldo to his long-standing rival, Lionel Messi.

“I felt as though he would want to stay in Europe, it tells me that the offers are staggering and the clubs didn’t come in for him,” Neville said.

“There’s an element of sadness for me – (the) last of Ronaldo at the top level. That had to come to an end at Old Trafford – it looks like Cristiano is finishing his career in Saudi.”

Meanwhile, Carragher added: It’s a sad end for him isn’t it? Ronaldo has finished his career with an interview with Piers Morgan and Messi has won the World Cup.”

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