‘Superstar’ Cristiano Ronaldo finally scored his first goal in the Asian Champions League (ACL).
Ronaldo’s equalizer and Talisca’s multi-goal performance helped Al Nasr come from behind for a 3-1 win over FC Istiklol (Tajikistan) in the second leg of their 2023-2024 ACL Group E match at Al Ahwal Park in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday. With their second straight group win, Al-Nasr (6 points) maintained their lead at the top of the group ahead of Persepolis (3-1W, 1D), who defeated Alduhail (Qatar – 1-1D) 1-0 on the day. Istiklol (P1), who drew 1-1, are level on points with Alduhail but are last on goal difference. Alduhail have Kim Moon-hwan in their lineup.
Al Nasr dominated the game against the inferior Istiklol. They had a whopping 83% possession. However, they fell apart on the counterattack. Istiklol scored the first goal. In the 43rd minute, Senin Sebayi rattled the Al Nasr net with a right-footed shot from just outside the penalty area after winning the ball in midfield from Janis Besanovic. Istiklol were extremely efficient, scoring on their only shot of the first half.
Stung by the blow, Al Nasr upped the ante in the second half. They equalized in the 21st minute of the second half. The hero was Ronaldo. Ronaldo received a penetrating pass from Abdulrahman Gharib and attempted a left-footed shot from the left side of the penalty area, but the ball was blocked by a defender’s tackle and spilled out. Ronaldo quickly scored the equalizer with a left-footed shot from the left side of the goal area.
It was Ronaldo’s debut goal on the ACL. It was Ronaldo’s second goal in as many games since he made his ACL debut against Persepolis on March 20. Ronaldo was a Champions League legend. He is the European Champions League’s all-time leading goalscorer. He scored 140 goals. He also holds the record for most goals (7), most goals in a tournament, and most goals in a season. He also holds the record for most appearances, most wins, most assists, and most hat tricks. He’s also won five championships.
Ronaldo moved to Saudi Arabia’s Al Nasr in December of last year, leaving all of these records behind. Ronaldo parted ways with United last year after giving an interview in which he criticized the club across the board. It was less than two years after he had returned to his hometown club after stints at Real Madrid and Juventus. After the World Cup, Ronaldo was contemplating whether to stay in Europe or move to Saudi Arabia. He signed a contract with Al-Nasr until 2025. It was worth €200 million a year.
In its bid to host the 2030 World Cup, Saudi Arabia has been focusing on “growing soccer,” recently winning the right to host the 2023 Club World Cup after the 2027 Asian Cup. The kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund (PIF) bought Newcastle United in the English Premier League and has a star-studded roster. Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, dubbed “Mr. Everything,” wants to raise the kingdom’s international profile through sports, and while critics have accused him of “sportswashing,” it’s hard to argue with the kingdom’s astronomical oil money. The PIF, already headed by Crown Prince Salman, holds a 75% stake in Al Nasr, Al Hilal, Al Ittihad and Al Ahli, giving it direct influence over player signings.
Following Ronaldo’s move, last year’s Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema left Real Madrid for Al Ittihad, followed by N’Golo Kante (Al Ittihad), Riyad Mahrez (Al Ahli), and Sadio Mane (Al Nasr). It wasn’t just veterans. Stars in their twenties, in the prime of their careers, such as Leo Neves and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (both of Al Hilal), have also made the move to Saudi Arabia. Legends like Steven Gerrard went to Saudi Arabia as a manager. The pinnacle was Neymar. One of the biggest stars in the world, Neymar left Paris Saint-Germain for Al-Hilal.온라인카지노
As a result, the Saudis spent around €600 million ($874.7 million) on player transfers this summer. That’s more than the Spanish league among Europe’s top five. Primera Liga spent around €337 million ($491.3 million) this summer, while the Saudi league spent nearly twice as much. The EPL, the world’s top league, has spent around €2.05 billion ($2.988 billion), Italy’s Serie A €700 million ($1.205 billion), Germany’s Bundesliga €648.2 million ($944.7 million), and France’s Ligue 1 €630 million ($918.4 million). The Saudi league immediately surpasses the Italian, German, and French leagues.
When it comes to salaries, the numbers are even more staggering. Eight of the world’s top 10 highest paid players are currently in the Saudi league. Ronaldo and Benzema top the list with 292 billion won each, followed by Neymar (219 billion won) and Kante (146.1 billion won). Only the fifth and sixth spots are in different leagues. PSG’s Mbappe is fifth on the list with 101.9 billion won. Lionel Messi (Inter Miami), who has moved to the United States, is sixth with 66.2 billion won. The seventh through tenth spots are again Saudi. Mane (57.9 billion won), Henderson (57.9 billion won – Al Etihad), Mahrez (50.9 billion won), and Kalidou Koulibaly (44.1 billion won – Al Hilal) are all from the Saudi league.
Saudi teams are among the strongest favorites to win the ACL this season. Al Nasr is one of them. Al Nasr broke the game open in the 27th minute when Talisca scored on a header. Talisca completed the Al Nasr comeback five minutes later with a consolation goal. Al Nasr sealed the win.