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Cristiano Ronaldo was wrong! Saudi Pro League a massive FLOP as embarrassing TV figures revealed

Cristiano Ronaldo, Al-Nassr, 2023/24

Cristiano Ronaldo has been proven emphatically wrong in his belief that the Saudi Pro League will imminently overtake its European counterparts to become a major force in world football.

Ronaldo joined Al-Nassr late 2022 following his release by mutual consent from Manchester United.

Since moving to the Gulf league, he has been bullish in his belief that the Pro League is on the verge of exploding.

Speaking last summer, he indicated that the league he is spearheading is quickly catching up on Europe’s Big 5.

“European football has lost a lot of quality. The only valid one and still doing good is the English Premier League. They’re way ahead of all the other leagues” he claimed.

Ronaldo doubled down on this claim in January, when he said at the Globe Soccer Awards that the Saudi Pro League is already “better” than Ligue 1, where his rival Lionel Messi spent two years playing for PSG before moving to Inter Miami in MLS.

Karim Benzema is unsettled in Saudi Arabia after a move last summer
© IMAGO – Karim Benzema is unsettled in Saudi Arabia after a move last summer

While the Saudi Pro League has spent lavishly to attract some of the game’s biggest names, including Ronaldo and fellow Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema, it faces problems.

For one, several European players are unsettled. Benzema has spent weeks agitating for a move, Jordan Henderson lasted less than six months before fleeing to Ajax and Aymeric Laporte most damning admitted that many players want out, albeit he subsequently distanced himself from the quotes.

Crucially, though, interest from abroad has not followed.

Cristiano Ronaldo at Al-Nassr
© IMAGO – Cristiano Ronaldo at Al-Nassr

How many people watch the Saudi Pro League?

The Saudi Pro League has no television presence in the UK, its rights were sold for just €60,000 (yes, sixty thousand) to Marca in Spain, which is no longer giving its highlights prominence and figures from France show how embarrassing the situation is.

On March 1, just 5,000 viewers watched the clash between Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad on Canal+. This is despite the attraction of N’Golo Kante, Fabinho, Kalidou Koulibaly, Yassine Bounou and more.

L’Equipe puts this into damning context. More than six times more people watched the third-tier match between Rouen and Sochaux at the same time.

In Spain it was sold, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Benzema and all that, for a fantastic sum of €60,000

– Javier Tebas – LaLiga president

The French paper reports that a Saudi Pro League spokesman claims getting accurate viewing figures for the league is a “significant challenge” and asked it to “treat the subject in a positive manner”.

LaLiga president Javier Tebas pointed out in January: “In terms of audiovisual rights, in the United States, we do not see the Saudi Pro League; in Africa, we do not see it; in Spain it was sold, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Benzema and all that, for a fantastic sum of €60,000.”

The stadium of defending champions Al-Ittihad is often two-thirds empty, so it appears that the Saudi Pro League is equally as unattractive currently to local viewers as it is to locals.

Its only saviour may be that those funding the league have almost infinite wealth to pour into what is currently a massive financial black hole.

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