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Ronaldo makes debut as Al-Nassr defeat Ettifaq 1-0

Al-Nassr
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Cristiano Ronaldo made a winning start to life in the Saudi Pro League as he led Al Nassr to a 1-0 victory over Ettifaq on Sunday in his first match since becoming the best paid footballer in history.

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The Portuguese superstar took time to get going but there were promising signs for Al Nassr, who are eyeing domestic and continental silverware after the 37-year-old moved for deals totalling more than 400 million euros.

However, Ronaldo’s league debut had an anticlimactic feel in front of 22,862 fans after he scored twice in this week’s lively 5-4 exhibition defeat to Lionel Messi’s Paris Saint-Germain.

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Ronaldo, leading out Al Nassr as captain, made a low-key start in the first half, twice losing the ball with attempted trickery as his team-mates struggled to get him on the ball.

Ronaldo’s early shot from the edge of the box was deflected over, and he nearly met Abdulmajeed Al Sulaiheem’s cross that was headed in by Anderson Talisca for the opener on 31 minutes.

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Shortly afterwards Ronaldo, met by shouts of “Siu!” every time he touched ball, blazed over with a free kick from an inviting position just outside the penalty area.

Al Nassr’s front three began to click in the second half and Ronaldo set up Pity Martinez and Talisca — after some trademark stepovers — for close chances in quick succession.

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A swing and a miss at a bicycle kick showed Ronaldo was warming to his task, and he then attempted a shot from a nearly impossible angle after a dribble into the box.

But there was to be no goal for Ronaldo, watched by his girlfriend Georgina Rodriguez, in a win that kept Al Nassr on top of the Saudi Pro League.

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– All-time great –
Ronaldo arrived in oil-rich Saudi Arabia in early January but his debut was delayed while he served a two-match ban for knocking a mobile phone out of a fan’s hand while at Manchester United.

The move to Saudi is a step down for Ronaldo, an undisputable all-time great who has continually delivered on football’s biggest stages and amassed an astonishing haul of team and personal honours.

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The five-time Ballon d’Or winner is the all-time Champions League top-scorer, collecting five titles along the way, and has won seven domestic championships with Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus.

Ronaldo also holds the record for international goals — 118 with Portugal, with whom he won Euro 2016 — and career goals with 819. In Qatar last year, he became the first man to score at five World Cups.

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His shock move to Al Nassr came after his second stint at Manchester United collapsed in acrimony when he savaged the club in a TV interview.

According to a source close to Al Nassr, he signed for more than 200 million euros on top of a separate 200-million-euro deal to act as an ambassador for Saudi Arabia’s expected 2030 World Cup co-hosting bid.

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It will further swell the bank balance of Ronaldo, who became the first footballer to pass $1 billion in career earnings in 2020.

Part of his appeal is his massive social media presence, with nearly 800 million followers across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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However, his transfer has been criticised by activist groups including Amnesty International, which warned he was becoming a “tool of Saudi’s sportswashing” of its “appalling human rights record”.

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Antonio Conte to undergo surgery after Tottenham boss became ill

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By Francesca Iwambe

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Antonio Conte could miss a number of games after Premier League club Tottenham announced he will go under the knife having suffered from “severe abdominal pain”

Antonio Conte was suffering from “severe abdominal pain”, Tottenham said.

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Tottenham head coach Antonio Conte is to have his gallbladder removed on Wednesday after suffering from “severe abdominal pain” earlier this morning.

The Italian could be absent for up to a couple of weeks following the surgery and his assistant Cristian Stellini is expected to take charge of Sunday’s Premier League fixture against Manchester City.

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“Antonio recently became unwell with severe abdominal pain,” a Spurs statement said. “Following a diagnosis of cholecystitis, he will be undergoing surgery to remove his gallbladder today (Wednesday) and will return following a period of recuperation. Everyone at the club wishes him well.”

Conte will be determined to return as soon as possible but there is a chance that he will miss the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie away to Milan on February 14.

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Chukwueze Among LaLiga’s Prolific Players

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Villarreal forward, Samuel Chukwueze, has been listed among the top five prolific players in LaLiga since 2022

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Chukwueze is one of the five players in the Spanish topflight to have reached double figures for both goals and assists since 2022 in all competitions.

OptaJose, world leader in sports data, revealed this on their official Twitter handle.

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The Nigerian’s inclusion did not come as a surprise following his impressive performance, which was key to Villareal’s return to form after a poor start during the year.

The 23-year-old, a part of the squad that won the Europa League in 2021 after defeating Manchester United in the final, has been very influential for Villarreal this season, scoring eight goals and assisting seven across all competitions this season, and taking his total tally to 10 goals and 10 assists since January 2022 till date.

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Also on the list are Real Madrid’s Brazilian star Vinicius Jr and Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembele.

The Los Blancos forward tops the list having scored 21 goals and assisted 14, while Dembele occupies the second position with 10 goals and 18 assists.

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Jose Morales, who recently joined Villarreal from Levante, is third on the list with his 17 goals and 11 assists, with Madrid’s Rodrygo’s 15 goals and 12 assists placing him in fourth of the most prolific LaLiga players’ lists.

In 2022, Super Eagles forward Chukwueze made LaLiga Team of The Week for a record three times, a personal best for the Nigerian.

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So much is Chukwueze’s impressive form that the forward has grown to become one of the Yellow Submarines’ key men and has started in all of the club’s but one last 10 games.

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Transfer deadline: Mikel Arteta tells Arsenal two players to sign

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Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has told the club to sign Declan Rice from West Ham United and Brighton’s Moises Caicedo before 11 pm on Tuesday(today).

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The January transfer window ends today, and the Gunners are believed to be working hard to bolster their squad with at least two additions.

The Gunners keep the hope of signing the Ecuador international today despite their first two bids rejected by the Seagulls, who remain keen to keep the midfielder.

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Caicedo has made it clear to his club that he wants to leave, and his preference is to join Arsenal.

The Sun reports that Arteta also wants to sign Rice regardless of whether Arsenal succeeds in bringing in Caicedo today.

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