Rio Ferdinand has defended Cristiano Ronaldo’s decision to sign for Al-Nassr and go back on his vow to continue his career at an European club.
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After his exit from Manchester United was confirmed this month, the 37-year-old revealed his intention to have one more crack at winning the Champions League and previously said he was capable of playing at the top level until he was 40.
Ronaldo attempted to engineer an exit from Old Trafford in the summer but Chelsea, Bayern and Real Madrid all turned down the chance to sign the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
The former Juve star had hoped that the World Cup in Qatar would act as a shop window and boost his chances of getting his wish, but his tournament ended soon following Portugal’s quarter-final exit at the hands of Morocco.
With no fresh takers, Ronaldo has chosen to commit the next two years of his career to Al-Nassr in Saudi Arabia and sign a deal reported to be worth an astronomical £350m.
The reaction to Ronaldo’s move has been generally negative, especially given the role he is set to play in Saudi Arabia’s bid to host the 2030 World Cup, despite the questionable human rights record.
Ronaldo’s former teammate, Ferdinand believes the move to a new continent should be seen as an adventure and an opportunity to spread his legacy.
He told Vibe with FIVE: ‘I’m pleased for him that he’s finally happy. For any footballer whatever level you’re playing in, happiness and being happy in the environment you’re playing in is one of the most important things.
‘He hasn’t been happy for a while so I’m pleased he’s on the verge of finding that happiness, albeit in a country that not many people expected him to go to.
‘But what a prospect that is, what an adventure that is for him to go to Saudi to go and play in a brand new league, a competitive league over there by the way.
‘I’ve looked at people commenting and a few pundits saying it’s a sad way for him to go out. The only sadness is the way it ended at Manchester United. I think in hindsight in a couple of years he’ll look back and think it could have been handled differently.
‘But this next chapter, going to Saudi. How is that a sad way to end his career? I don’t understand how people are saying that.’
Ferdinand also questioned the double standards at play because of the lack of criticism a number of former Premier League legends like Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, were subjected to when they chose to wind down their careers in America on Major League Soccer contracts.
He added: ‘It was great to see David Beckham, Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, it was great to see them go to America.
‘What a way to finish their careers, getting great money, going to a league that’s not as competitive, let them go, they’ve deserved that, they’ve earned the right.
‘That’s all I saw in the media. But because it’s Saudi Arabia it’s sad, it’s a disgrace. Let a man go and live, let a man go and enjoy it. It’s a new adventure he’s taking his family to experience a new culture.
‘Every single country in the world has its issues. America has less issues than somewhere like Saudi? It’s fine for all these players to go to America, Bastian Schweinsteiger etc?
‘Let’s let them go to the States and have a swansong year and just toss it off. It stinks we’re not hearing this type of talk. It’s out of order.
‘Every other player that’s gone to a less competitive league to end their career has been told you’ve earned the right. No man on the planet would have earned the right more than this guy.’