Al Nassr coach Rudi Garcia has revealed that Cristiano Ronaldo will make his Saudi Arabia debut as part of an exhibition squad in a friendly against Paris Saint-Germain, which could pit him against Lionel Messi.
The forward has been suspended by the Football Association for knocking a phone out of the hand of a young fan following Manchester United’s defeat at Everton in April.
It has complicated Garcia’s planning for domestic goals by delaying Ronaldo’s eagerly anticipated debut, which is now slated to occur in a showcase match against PSG in Riyadh on January 19.
“It won’t be with the Al Nassr jersey,” the 58-year-old explained. “It will be a mix between Al Hilal and Al Nassr.
“As the coach of Al Nassr, I cannot be happy with this match. For development, to see PSG, to see the great Parisian players, indeed it is a good thing. But we have a championship game three days later
“In terms of scheduling, it could have been better thought out. But it’s not a big deal… We are in the lead, we are happy. It is a difficult championship to win, but we intend to do it.”
Garcia has also stated that one of his tasks is to assist Ronaldo in rediscovering his love for the game after a trying year.
“The only thing I want is for him to enjoy playing football again and smile,” he said.
“In recent months, between Manchester United, the national team and also at a private level, he has not had easy moments.
“If he finds the pleasure of playing again, a good goal will be achieved.”
Garcia compared Pele’s groundbreaking union with the New York Cosmos in 1975, which greatly increased interest in football in the United States, to Ronaldo’s arrival in Saudi Arabia.Embed from Getty Images
“It’s a bit like Pele’s arrival, especially for the development of football, sport and culture in Saudi Arabia,” Garcia said.
“It’s great. Great for us, for Al-Nassr. Great for Saudi Arabia,” said Frenchman Garcia. “Cristiano Ronaldo is more than a player. He is one of the best players in the world.
“It’s amazing how much it’s put a spotlight on our club. Now everyone knows where our club is around the world.
“We must have gone from 800,000 to 10m [followers] in a few hours, a few days, because of Cristiano’s arrival.”