Cristiano Ronaldo says Saudi Arabian league is ‘better’ than MLS, rules out return to Europe

Cristiano Ronaldo won’t be coming to Major League Soccer anytime soon.

Ronaldo was asked about following Lionel Messi’s move to MLS one day after Al-Nassr’s 5-0 loss to La Liga’s Celta Vigo on Monday in Portugal. Ronaldo quickly shut down that idea and even ruled out a return to Europe.

“The Saudi league is better than MLS,” Ronaldo said, via ESPN.

“I opened the way to the Saudi league, and now all the players are coming here,” he added.

Ronaldo signed a reported nine-figure deal to join the Saudi Pro League club in December, a move that was long expected after his tumultuous exit with Manchester United. Ronaldo is reportedly making more than $200 million per season playing in Saudi Arabia.

Cristiano Ronaldo won’t follow Lionel Messi’s move to the United States anytime soon. (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The soccer icon is by far the biggest player to join a Saudi Pro League club. Several other notable names have since followed suit, including Karim Benzema, Marcelo Brozovic, N’Golo Kante and Roberto Firmino. Soccer is the latest example of Saudi Arabia’s heavy investment in sports, following attempts in golf, Formula 1 and more. Critics have derided the effort as “sportswashing.”

At 38, Ronaldo’s career is undoubtedly nearing its end. He played just half of Monday’s friendly loss in Portugal, the first of two the team will play this week. The way he sounded Monday, however, makes it seem like Ronaldo is more than content to finish his playing days in Saudi Arabia. His long history in three of Europe’s top leagues — the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A — are behind him, and he doesn’t want to return.

“I’m 100% sure I won’t return to any European club,” Ronaldo said, via ESPN. “I’m 38 years old. And European football has lost a lot of quality. The only valid one and still doing good is the Premier League. They’re way ahead of all the other leagues.”

Ronaldo’s take comes on the heels of Messi’s introduction in MLS with Inter Miami. Messi, arguably the best soccer player ever, was introduced in Florida on Sunday. His arrival to the league marked a new era for MLS, which has now landed its biggest star, even as he’s 36 and also nearing the end of his career.

Inter Miami holds a 5-3-14 record, the worst in MLS. Messi is set to make his playing debut with the club Friday against Mexican side Cruz Azul in the Leagues Cup.


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