Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo could make his Saudi Arabian debut on January 22 after he was successfully registered by new team Al Nassr, a club source told AFP on Saturday.
Ronaldo, who was unveiled to fans this week, joined the squad list after Al Nassr terminated Manchester United-linked striker Vincent Aboubakar to stay within the maximum eight foreign nationals stipulated by the Saudi league.
He will now be available for the January 22 home game against Ettifaq after completing a two-match ban issued in November for smashing a fan’s mobile phone while playing for Manchester United.
“Al Nassr terminated Vincent Aboubakar’s contract by mutual consent and he received all his financial rights,” the club source said, adding that Ronaldo was registered before Al Nassr’s game against Al Ta’ee on Friday.
“So now he served one game from the ban and will serve the other one against Al Shabab” on January 14, the source said.
The official did not address reports that Aboubakar, 30, could be on his way to Manchester United, saying he was now a free agent and could negotiate with any team.
Ronaldo, 37, joined Al Nassr in a deal believed to be worth around 200 million euros that has shone an unprecedented light on the Saudi Pro League.
It comes as Saudi Arabia, which watched as neighbour Qatar hosted the World Cup in November and December, considers a joint bid for the 2030 tournament with Greece and Egypt.
The deeply conservative kingdom is snapping up sports assets as part of a drive to soften its harsh image, attract foreign interest and diversify its oil-reliant economy.
Critics have accused the Saudis of “sportswashing” — using sport to deflect attention from human rights controversies.