It was only in November. Cristiano Ronaldo He talked about his desire to continue playing in one of the biggest leagues in Europe.
Instead, he’s now a Al-Nasr player after moving to Saudi Arabia as a free agent in December – and has become the highest-paid player in history, earning £173m ($213m) a year.
Previous Manchester United The star has not yet played with his new club due to his two-match suspension from the Football Association, but he will be eligible to play in an exhibition match against Paris Saint-Germain today.
The 37-year-old’s league debut could come at home to Al-Ettifaq on Sunday.
Much has been said and written about his lucrative deal and what it means Saudi ArabiaBut what can a player who has won five Ballon d’Or titles expect to face in the Saudi Professional League?
According to the sports intelligence agency, Twenty First Group, Al-Nassr is the 308th best team in the world and its relative quality is comparable to championship teams. Luton Town And Sunderland. Manchester United is considered the 17th best team in the world.
The Saudi Professional League is ranked as the 58th-quality league in the world, according to the average strength of its team, which places it below the global rankings. Scottish Premier League (49), but above Serie C (68) in Italy.
Its worst teams are ranked in the 3,000th worst in the world, which is about the same as mid-table National League clubs such as FC Halifax Town and Boreham Wood, putting the average quality of the division’s contenders on a par with league poor. Good one team or two team league.
“In any given league and country, it’s relatively easy to tell which teams are good and which are bad,” said Omar Chowdhury, Twenty First Group’s chief intelligence officer. “You have results on the pitch, you see how teams do when they get up and down and how they do in domestic cups. You can calculate the strength of formations and that sort of thing.
“It becomes difficult when you go across the continent because the teams don’t play with each other much, even though we already have the Club World Cup and that gives us an indication of the relative quality of South America, Asia and so on.
“Relatively speaking, victory isn’t that bad, but there is a significant drop off once you start dropping out of the top 15 or 20 teams. By the time you get to 308, you have championship-level teams.”
Twenty First Group’s “World Super League” model ranks more than 4,000 teams globally and uses domestic, continental and intercontinental match results to assess the relative standing of teams and leagues.
“the Premier League It is the highest quality league because when we take the average rating and rating of the teams in that league, it comes out higher than BundesligaLa Liga, La Liga and so on, Chowdhury said.
In addition to determining the quality of the Saudi Professional League, Twenty First Group and Chaudhuri are able to determine the impact that Ronaldo may have had on Al-Nassr.
“We can see how players perform when they go beyond the leagues,” Chaudhary said. “We can see, for example, when strikers move from Asia to Europe, it gives us a sense of relative standards in quality and we can see goal-scoring rates go up or down.”
“Our exchange rate model allows us to understand the value of a goal in one league in another,” Chowdhury said. “This model estimates that an English Premier League goal is worth about 2.6 goals in the Saudi Professional League.”
Excluding penalties, Ronaldo scored 0.48 goals in 90 minutes during his second spell with Manchester United.
“Based on the ‘exchange rate’, that equates to about 1.28 goals per 90, or about 21 goals if he were to play the most minutes with Al Nassr between now and the end of the season – before any penalties he would inevitably take,” Chowdhury added.
Although there is a strong possibility that Ronaldo will score goals for fun in Saudi Arabia, Choudary has yet to come across a player who has gone down so many levels in a single transfer.
The only comparison I can think of is MLSChowdhury said. “We rate MLS as the 29th best league in the world, so it’s not low. But the difference with MLS is that quality is more focused.
With Saudi Arabia, there is a huge gap between the top and bottom teams, but MLS is more competitive, so the worse teams tend to be a bit better.
“There are no examples of a player as good as Ronaldo going down to that level. He was still playing fairly regularly for United, and I can think of nothing with this withdrawal.”
Where do we go next the athlete…
There is a desire in Saudi Arabia to welcome other high-profile footballers – they hope Ronaldo will open the door.
But even if they sign several international stars, it is unlikely to make a difference as to how Twenty First Group assesses the Saudi Professional League.
“The quality of your league is, fundamentally, dictated by the quality of your homegrown talent,” Choudhury says. “In most cases, they tend to make up around 50 per cent. Even in the Premier League, around 35-40 per cent of the players are English.
“Yes, they will be able to improve the quality of the league but you need a good core group of talent from homegrown players, and that’s why Japan and (South) Korea is ranked as the best leagues in Asia.
“It will help increase the commercial value of the league because more people will want to watch it both locally and in the region, which may be reinvested in coaching, but it will be a long time before that materializes in local talent.”
(Photo: FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images)