Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr have denied reports that Cristiano Ronaldo has a clause in his contract in which the Portugal forward is to serve as an ambassador for the Gulf country’s 2030 World Cup bid.
The 37-year-old moved to Al Nassr in December after signing a two-and-a-half-year contract estimated by media to be worth more than €200 million (S$286 million).
Media reports on Monday suggested Ronaldo would be paid another €200 million to support Saudi Arabia’s World Cup bid.
“Al Nassr FC would like to clarify that, contrary to news reports, Cristiano Ronaldo’s contract with Al Nassr does not entail commitments to any World Cup bids,” the club said in a statement in the early hours of Wednesday.
“His main focus is on Al Nassr and to work with his teammates to help the club achieve success.”
The oil-rich kingdom, along with Egypt and Greece, is considering a bid to host football’s 2030 showpiece.
The window to submit bids opened in 2022 and the winner will be selected at the Fifa Congress in 2024.
The 2026 edition of the World Cup will be held in the United States, Canada and Mexico, marking the first time the tournament will be shared by three different countries.
Ronaldo’s arrival in Saudi Arabia came just weeks after neighbouring Qatar became the first Arab nation to host the World Cup.
Argentina, led by the Portuguese superstar’s arch-rival Lionel Messi, beat France on penalties in the final following a thrilling 3-3 draw.
Five-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo, who has also won the Champions League five times and holds that tournament’s goal-scoring record, is expected to make his Al Nassr debut on Jan 22 against Ettifaq in the Saudi Pro League.
His first appearance for the club could also come against Messi on Jan 19 as Al Nassr are reportedly set to face French side Paris Saint-Germain in a friendly in Riyadh.
While Al Nassr are adamant that Ronaldo has no involvement in any World Cup bid, Messi was in 2022 announced by the Saudi Tourism Authority as its official brand ambassador.
The country has constantly faced criticism for its poor human rights record and crackdowns on LGBTQ+ issues, and that the luring of Ronaldo is the latest “sports washing” attempt to put the nation in a good light.
The conservative kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, has undertaken other high-profile sporting ventures, including the purchase of a majority stake in English Premier League club Newcastle United.
It has also bankrolled the lucrative LIV Golf league.