Cristiano Ronaldo walked off the pitch to chants of “Messi, Messi, Messi!” He was ringing in the ears of excited Al Hilal fans, who had just watched the Saudi Professional League side beat Portuguese superstar Al Nasr 3-0 in Friday’s Riyadh derby.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner may have been finished in the losing side – Aleksandar Mitrovic scored after fellow Serbian Sergej Milinkovic-Savic opened the scoring for Al Hilal Twice – but Ronaldo remains the center of attention in Saudi Arabian football.
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As the 38-year-old warmed up, there were cheers from thousands of away fans, many of whom were carrying the No. 7 jersey, and cheers from the home fans at large.
The former Real Madrid and Manchester United striker tops the goalscoring charts with 15 goals in 14 games ahead of the league season and has assisted Al Nasr – former Liverpool star Sadio Mane, Croatia Midfielder Marcelo Brozovic and former Manchester United defender Alex Telles are second in the league behind Al Hilal.
“Cristiano is a role model for everyone and Al Nasr is lucky to have such a role model,” said Al Nasr coach Luis Castro. “He is a model of rigor, ambition and discipline.
“A lot of people want to be like Cristiano Ronaldo, but few are willing to work like Cristiano Ronaldo. If you want something, you have to give everything to get it.”
Ronaldo tried everything on Friday. In the second half, with Al Nasr trailing by one goal, he fired a powerful volley into the net, but it was ruled out for offside. Soon after, he was rolling on the floor in Al Hilal’s penalty area, claiming he had been elbowed.
When Mitrovic scored his first goal late in the game and Al Hilal scored his second, Ronaldo insisted he had been fouled in the attack.
Al Nassr coach Luis Castro after Cristiano Ronaldo’s equalizer against Al Hilal was ruled out after a VAR check (Luis Castro) did show his phone to the referee 😅 pic.twitter.com/l2wbH29Cma
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Al Hilal has its own superstars, but the one with less influence at the moment is Neymar, who signed from Paris Saint-Germain in August and suffered a serious injury while playing for Brazil in October.
On social media, Neymar posted messages of wishes to his teammates such as Mitrovic, midfielder Ruben Neves and defender Kalidou Koulibaly, all of whom joined the Premier League this summer. players.
They join several Saudi Arabian internationals in the squad, such as Salem al-Dawsari and Saleh al-Shehri, who scored in Saudi Arabia’s 2-1 win over Messi’s Argentina at the 2022 World Cup ball.
Friday’s derby defeat leaves Al Nasr seven points behind leaders Al Hilal after 15 games. Ronaldo may have to work hard to help his team win the 10th title, but given his form so far this season, he may still have the last laugh as Messi’s singing fades away.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.