Al-Nassr coach in Saudi Arabia, Rudi Garcia, 58, said on Sunday on the sidelines of a visit to the Dakar how happy and eager he is to lead the five-time Portuguese Ballon d’Or, 37, who joined the Saudi club until 2025, against the pharaonic sum of €200 million annually.
Garcia confirms in particular that the former Mancunian, currently suspended, will be aligned for the first in the yellow and blue jersey of Al-Nassr at the end of next week: “It will not be the next match against Al-Shabab (Saturday), which is a big game, because he will always be suspended. It will be against Al-Ettifaq, at home, on January 22. »
“He should however make his debut in Saudi Arabia on January 19 against PSG, recalls the former coach of OL, his last club. It won’t be with Al-Nassr’s jersey. It will be a mix between Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr. Me, as coach of Al-Nassr, I cannot be happy with this match. For development, to see PSG, to see the great Parisian players, it’s actually a good thing. But we have a Championship match three days later. In terms of programming, it could have been better thought out. But it’s not very serious. »
As for his specific expectations, Garcia concedes that he has not yet taken stock with CR7 but welcomes his first impressions. “He is physically good, that, we suspected, he says. As I often think, the greatest champions are the easiest to manage. He blended into the group. He was seen joking and laughing happily with his new teammates. He was with us for the last match – 2-0 victory against Al-Taï on Friday – even though he couldn’t play. He was in the locker room, he was riding his bike and he was happy for us on the goals. He is totally with his team. He wants to win, he’s a winner. He will also pull everyone behind him from this point of view. »
“It’s crazy how it has given a spotlight on our club”
According to Garcia, the Portuguese made the right choice by moving to the Saudi league. “I sincerely think so, the only thing I wish for Cristiano is that he finds the pleasure of playing and a smile again. Because, in recent months, between Manchester United, the national team and also at the private level, he has not had only easy moments. If he finds the pleasure of playing again, it will be a good goal to achieve. »
More generally, Rudi Garcia welcomes the arrival of such a champion in Gulf football: “Cristiano Ronaldo is more than a player. He is one of the best players in the world, five times Ballon d’Or. I think for the development of Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, it is very important. If I can make a comparison for Cristiano, I think it looks a bit like the arrival of Pelé in the United States in his time – the Brazilian played for the New York Cosmos from 1975 to 1977 -, especially for the development of football , sports and culture in Saudi Arabia. »
Even before the superstar crowded a pitch, the French technician measured the impact of his presence: “It’s crazy how it has given our club a spotlight. Now everyone knows where Al-Nassr is in the whole world. Ronaldo drains a pretty incredible number of followers, I think the club must have gone from 800,000 to 10 million followers in a few hours or a few days thanks to his arrival. It’s beyond the football player…”