Cristiano Ronaldo Declares Saudi Professional League Superior to Major League Soccer: Here’s Why

Cristiano Ronaldo Claims Saudi Pro League is Superior to MLS

In a recent statement, Cristiano Ronaldo, the renowned Portuguese footballer, declared that the Saudi Professional League surpasses Major League Soccer (MLS) in terms of quality. Ronaldo, who currently plays for Al Nassr in the Saudi Pro League, made this assertion in response to questions about the possibility of him joining Lionel Messi in MLS. Following his team’s 5-0 defeat in a friendly match against La Liga club Celta Vigo, Ronaldo firmly stated, “I think that Arabia is a much better league than the United States.”

With an annual salary of £175 million ($217.4 million), Ronaldo holds the title of the world’s highest-paid player. However, sources close to Al Nassr claim that the club only contributes a tenth of his wage, with the rest being covered by the Saudi state. In contrast, Messi recently signed a deal with Inter Miami until 2025, with an option to extend until 2026. Although his annual earnings are estimated to be around $50-60 million, this figure includes the value of his equity in the franchise.

Despite Ronaldo’s comment, Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber expressed confidence and dismissed concerns about the Saudi Pro League’s growing influence on the global football landscape. Garber compared the situation to when people doubted MLS’s potential impact on the sport worldwide, stating, “I’m the co-chair of the World League Forum and the Saudi League has been a part of the World League Forum… They are a contributing member of the global professional football community.” Garber emphasized the opportunity to expand the reach of professional football beyond Europe and into emerging markets.

Ronaldo and Messi’s decisions to venture beyond Europe and join leagues in Saudi Arabia and the United States, respectively, have fueled ongoing discussions about the quality of their new competitions. While many believe their legacies will primarily be shaped by their European and international achievements, their choices to play abroad have added a new layer to the shared narrative surrounding the two football icons. Garber’s assurance and confidence in MLS further reinforce the league’s resilience and ability to adapt to global developments in professional football.

In January, the Saudi Professional League was ranked as the 59th-best domestic league in the world, while MLS ranked 29th. This star-driven approach to growth has drawn comparisons to the deflated Chinese Super League. It is worth noting that Ronaldo faced allegations of sexual assault in Las Vegas in 2009, which may influence his perspective on anything related to the United States, although the case was dismissed in June 2022.

Ultimately, it is uncommon for top-tier players to acknowledge playing in a perceived lesser competition. Ronaldo and Messi’s moves abroad continue to shape the ongoing narrative surrounding their careers, and their impact on their respective leagues will be closely observed and debated as they seek to leave their mark outside of Europe.