Ronaldo is set to play a familiar role with Al Nasr after a successful tune-up match.

Cristiano Ronaldo has never been one to let a big occasion slip gently into the night without making a statement and thrusting himself directly into the spotlight.

Thursday was no exception as Ronaldo played his first game at club level since his ill-fated second spell with Manchester United came to a controversial end in November and the first game since Portugal’s exit from the FIFA World Cup.

A week after breaking off the festivities in Qatar, Ronaldo signed a massive €200m-a-year deal with Al-Nasr that will keep him tied to the Saudi club until 2025. Ronaldo, who turns 37 next month, is expected to make his debut for Al Nasser on Sunday in a league match against Ettifaq FC.

But making his Saudi debut in such a humble, low-profile affair is not befitting a player of Ronaldo’s stature and celebrity. Thursday’s international friendly between Paris Saint-Germain and Riyadh ST XI – an all-star team made up of players from Saudi clubs Al-Hilal and Al-Nasr – was arranged to give the Portuguese icon a proper welcome to the country. Living their lives for the next few years.

The two teams combined to put on a show in an all-goal festival that saw PSG and Lionel Messi, fresh from their World Cup triumph a month ago, register a 5-4 win over Saudi All Stars. But it was Ronaldo, wearing his trademark number 7, who grabbed the headlines and won man of the match with two goals, one of which came from 12 yards when he Hit on the head. PSG goalkeeper Keylor Navas scored a penalty in the 34th minute.

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The sell-out crowd at Riyadh’s King Fahd International Stadium were once again brought to their feet just before half-time when Ronaldo collected his rebound on a shot that hit the far post and slipped past Navas, who before he was sent off in the 60th minute. Stand up and shout slogans. His brace bested the tally recorded by Messi (he was held to just one goal), allowing Ronaldo to take center stage on the night.

What, if anything, can be read into Ronaldo’s performance? On the surface, not much. PSG fielded a full-strength starting 11 (with the exception of Gianluigi Donnarumma), but it was hardly a competitive game played at any serious level. Instead, it was your typical international friendly in which the defending was comical, and at times non-existent.

Still, the game against PSG was a lesson in how Ronaldo will be used by Al-Nasr, coached by Frenchman Rudi Garcia (previously in charge of Lille, Lyon, Marseille and AS Roma). And that includes Brazilians. Midfielder, Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina and Brazilian midfielder Luiz Gustavo.

In his last few seasons at Real Madrid, Ronaldo adapted his style of play to become more of a free-roaming forward. It was a role that allowed him to build on his amazing goalscoring record, but also demanded that he work hard both on and off the ball, and sharpen his sense of positioning. His three seasons with Juventus also saw him feature in various attacking roles.

His second run at Manchester United ended all that, as managers Ralf Ringnick and Erik ten Hague did not give him the creative license he had enjoyed in Italy and Spain.

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Against PSG, Ronaldo thrived under Saudi All-Star team coach Marcelo Gallardo. The official team sheet listed Ronaldo as a left-sided attacker as part of the front three, and started the game as such. But it wasn’t long before things changed, and he was deployed as the traditional No.9. At the same time, Ronaldo dropped back deep to collect the ball instead of waiting for it to reach his feet. Next thing you knew, it was popping up on the right.

Given the freedom to follow his attacking instincts, Ronaldo became the main point of attack for the Saudis and the team managed to score three times against PSG before the Portuguese star left the game after an hour. .

A look of glee crossed his face as he waved to the crowd as he was overwhelmed. If Thursday is anything to go by, he is clearly enjoying his football again after his exit from Manchester United and will thrive in Saudi Arabia as Al-Nasr gives him license to play in a freer role as He had done it before and built the team around it.

John Molinaro is one of the leading soccer journalists in Canada, having covered the sport for more than 20 years for several media outlets, including Sportsnet, CBC Sports and Sun Media. He is currently the editor-in-chief of TFC Republic, a website dedicated to in-depth coverage of Toronto FC and Canadian soccer. TFC Republic can be found Here 

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