Cristiano Ronaldo, who appeared to be unhappy, has made the decision to depart Saudi Arabia and make a return to Real Madrid. This is in order to meet his generational rival, Lionel Messi, in Spain. The news was reported by El Nacional. Ronaldo had previously joined Al-Nassr in the beginning of 2023 after a falling out with Erik ten Hag and having his contract with Manchester United mutually terminated. The Portuguese superstar had quickly signed a two-and-a-half season deal with the Saudi team, who are paying him a yearly sum of €200 million ($218 million), as reported by The Guardian and transfer market expert Fabrizio Romano.
This latest development is likely to propel Ronaldo to the top of Forbes' list of the highest-paid soccer players in the world for 2023, after he finished third on the list last year behind Kylian Mbappe and Messi, who completed a PSG 1-2.
In 2022, Ronaldo ranked third on Forbes' list of the highest-paid athletes in the world, earning $115 million. Basketball icon LeBron James earned $121.2 million, while Messi took the top spot with $130 million.
There was a possibility that Messi could have joined Ronaldo in Saudi Arabia, with Al-Hilal reportedly offering him €400 million ($440 million) per year, which would have surpassed Ronaldo's salary by a considerable margin, according to Romano. However, SPORT reported that Messi wants to remain in Europe, and with FC Barcelona making a concerted effort to bring the Argentine back to the Blaugrana after his PSG contract expires on June 30th, he and Ronaldo could be reunited in Spain once again.
According to a report by the Catalan digital newspaper, Ronaldo has decided to leave Saudi Arabia due to difficulties in adapting to the local culture and the language barrier.
The Portuguese superstar is now poised to return to the Spanish capital, where he called home from 2009 to 2018. Madrid president Florentino Perez has assured Ronaldo that he will have a role to play at the Santiago Bernabeu.
At 38 years old, however, it is unlikely that Ronaldo and Messi will meet on the field in El Clasico again, ending one of the greatest rivalries in elite club football whenever Madrid and Barca clashed in the world's most famous derby.
Instead, Ronaldo may be offered a behind-the-scenes role, such as that of an ambassador, following his retirement. Messi has also expressed interest in taking up a similar role at Camp Nou when he decides to hang up his boots.
Assuming the report is true and Ronaldo is indeed considering retiring from one of the most illustrious careers in football history, it would be logical for him to return to Madrid where he experienced his most successful years as a professional.
Despite his impressive tenure at United in the 2000s, Ronaldo is mostly associated with the La Liga giants, where he won four Champions League titles and became their all-time top scorer.
If he were to become an ambassador, he would be following in the footsteps of other club legends, including Ronaldo Nazario and Roberto Carlos, among others.