Cristiano Ronaldo calls Saudi Pro League season one of the best

Cristiano Ronaldo called his first full season in the Saudi Pro League “one of the best” of his career after receiving the award on Monday for scoring the most goals in the league — a record-breaking 35.

The Portugal international signed with Al Nassr on Dec. 30, 2022, and played the second half of the SPL season in 2023. During his first full season in Saudi Arabia in 2023-24, Ronaldo broke the league record for goals in a season of 34, set by Abderrazak Hamdallah in 2018-19.

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“To be honest it means a lot because it’s my work,” Ronaldo said “I have to be honest and say it’s not something I was looking for at the beginning of the season but over time I started to see that it was possible. So, I have the opportunity to say thank you to my teammates because without the team nothing individually would have been possible.

“I feel very proud to beat the Saudi league record. It’s great for me, I feel happy, and this is my motivation to play football, to train every time and to carry on like that.”

Despite the individual accolades, it was a trophy-less season for Ronaldo and Al Nassr, who finished second in the SPL behind Al Hilal, and failed to win a trophy in any of the Asian Champions League, Saudi Super Cup and Saudi King’s Cup.

It was a poor return for five-time Champions League winner Ronaldo after his high-profile move to the SPL, especially compared to the numerous accomplishments he achieved at other stops in his career with teams like Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus.

Ronaldo will now join up with his Portugal teammates ahead of this summer’s Euro, with the 2016 champions drawn against Czech Republic, Turkey and Georgia in the group stage.

“I think the goals for each season is the kind of the same, it’s to do your best and win titles. If possible, to collect individual [trophies] as well but my goal is to be the same — to be the same Cristiano that you saw this season, to do my best, to achieve goals with Al Nassr and with my Portugal national team as well. To maintain my level is what I’m looking for.”

Also on Monday, Portugal coach Roberto Martinez called up Manchester City midfielder Matheus Nunes for the European Championship to replace the injured Otávio, a teammate of Ronaldo’s at Al Nassr.

Nunes has 12 caps, though none in a competitive game since the 2022 World Cup 18 months ago.

Martinez did not pick Nunes during the team’s 10-win run through its qualifying group last year. Nunes also was not a regular starter for Man City coach Pep Guardiola in their English Premier League title season.