Cristiano Ronaldo admits joy at unexpected record in Saudi League

Another year, another record for Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portugal captain’s brace for Al Nassr on the final day of the Saudi Pro League took him onto 35 goals for the season – a new record for the competition.

Meanwhile, Jorge Jesus’ Al Hilal ensured they end the season undefeated, securing a 96-point haul having dropped just six points all season. With the league campaign concluded, attention now turns to the King’s Cup final between Al Nassr and Al Hilal on Friday.

Ronaldo came into the final day trailing the all-time Pro League record, set at 34 goals by another Al Nassr player Abderrazak Hamdallah in 2019, by a single goal. On the stroke of half time Ronaldo had drawn level, latching onto a long pass by Mohammed Al Fatil and using his chest to control before firing a left-footed finish past Mohammed Al Mahasnah.

With one half of football left to break the record and stand alone in the history books, Ronaldo’s chances were increased when Portuguese boss Luís Castro opted to introduce Seleção midfielder Otávio at the break for extra creativity. Former Porto man Otávio made the desired impact when his pass found Ronaldo isolated against Al Ittihad defender Suwailem Al Manhali, whose subsequent foul resulted in his dismissal.

Almost immediately following the red card, Ronaldo had the goal he craved. The 39-year-old met Marcelo Brozovic’s corner with a thumping header, which flew into the net and induced ecstatic celebration from football’s all-time leading goalscorer at another record broken.

“I’m very happy,” Ronaldo told reporters. “Firstly, for the team’s victory and for finishing the championship well. And then, breaking a league goals record... I’ll confess that I’m very happy. I wasn’t expecting it and it’s important for me.

“The most important thing is always the team. We are in good shape... We are doing well, we are improving. We finished the league well and now it’s time to win the King’s Cup. What I can hope is that the team can play well, that it can be a competitive final and that it is fair. That’s what I ask most.”

Ronaldo’s words about the final being fair are a pointed reference to his criticism of refereeing in Saudi Arabia of late. Jorge Jesus’ Al Hilal will likely be marginal favourites given their exceptional season, during which they dropped just six points, but Ronaldo will be eager to salvage another trophy for his collection.

By @SeanGillen9