Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo could make his Saudi Arabia debut on January 22 after new team Al Nassr successfully signed him up, a club source told AFP on Saturday.

Ronaldo, who was presented to fans on Tuesday, joined the squad after Al Nassr sacked Manchester United-linked striker Vincent Aboubakar to stay within the Saudi league’s maximum of eight foreigners.

He will now be available for the January 22 home game against Ettifaq after completing a two-match ban issued in November for breaking a fan’s mobile phone while playing for Manchester United.

“Al Nassr terminated Vincent Aboubakar’s contract by mutual agreement and received all his financial rights,” the club source said, adding that Ronaldo was registered ahead of Al Nassr’s match against Al Ta’ee on Friday.

“So now he served one game of the ban and he will serve the other game against Al Shabab” on January 14, the source said.

The official did not address reports that Aboubakar, 30, may be on his way to Manchester United, saying he is now a free agent and can negotiate with any team.

Ronaldo, 37, joined Al Nassr in a deal believed to be worth around €200m and has shed an unprecedented light on the Saudi Pro League.

It comes as Saudi Arabia, which watched neighboring Qatar host the World Cup in November and December, is considering a joint bid for the 2030 tournament with Greece and Egypt.

The deeply conservative kingdom is acquiring sporting assets as part of a campaign to soften its tough image, attract foreign interest and diversify its oil-dependent economy.

Critics have accused the Saudis of “sports laundering” – using sport to divert attention from human rights controversies.

AFP