Get to know Roshn Saudi League’s Al Nassr: From Asian glory and an inaugural Club World Cup campaign, to signing Cristiano Ronaldo
Who are the most-talked-about club in world football in 2023?
Al Nassr, one of Saudi Arabia’s most-heralded sides, have made a global splash following the signing of megastar Cristiano Ronaldo.
With interest in them – as evidenced by the explosion of followers on their social media accounts – growing, we’ve put together a quick crib sheet.
Given its position in the upper echelons of Saudi football, it is no surprise that Al Nassr have been able to attract some of Roshn Saudi League’s premium talents.
Ronaldo joins several familiar faces. These include the league’s current top scorer Talisca, formerly of Besiktas and Benfica.
Ex-Bayern Munich star Luiz Gustavo anchors midfield, former Arsenal custodian David Ospina made a huge impression before undergoing elbow surgery and centre-back Alvaro Gonzalez is already a firm fans’ favourite after swapping Marseille for Riyadh.
Rudi Garcia is the new man at the helm, this season.
The Frenchman’s life in Saudi Arabia has started off as well as he could have hoped, leading the club into the title race as we reach the halfway point.
It is a fresh challenge for the experienced head coach, whose time in Marseille saw him work closely with current Al Nassr player Gustavo, taking the French giants to May 2018’s Europa League final.
Ronaldo will be delighted to find his side in the title mix, upon arrival in the country.
Al Nassr have enjoyed their best start since 2014/15, a season they were crowned champions. Garcia’s side have managed to be prolific scorers thanks in no small part to Talisca, whose form since the World Cup 2022 break has been crucial for the championship hopefuls.
A 1-0 reversal to Al Taawoun in the second week is their only top-flight defeat, to date.
Al Nassr was founded in 1955 and have nine league titles under their belt since the mid-1970s.
They also have prevailed in six King’s Cup competitions. Their last league title came in 2018/19, their third in the last decade, but two Saudi Super Cups in 2019 and 2020 have kept the stream of silverware going.
They also possess a storied history, having enjoyed a successful spell in the late 1970s and 1980s. This prolific period was headed by the great Majed Abdullah, Fahd Al Herafy and Mohaisn Al Jam’aan – collectively dubbed the ‘Saudi Golden trio’.
The 1990s then saw wider recognition at Asian level.
After several near misses, continental success was finally secured with 1997/98’s Asian Cup Winners’ Cup.
Reward for that trophy came with a berth in 2000’s first edition of what is now known as the FIFA Club World Cup. Although eliminated in the group stage, they performed admirably versus Real Madrid and Corinthians, plus edged African champions Raja Casablanca 4-3 in an epic contest.
Al Nassr play their home games at Mrsool Park.
The stadium is on the campus of King Saud University in the Saudi capital and was opened in 2015. With a capacity of 25,000, it is one of the newer grounds in the country.
Foreign viewers will recognise its distinct yellow and blue seating. Not only was it host to Ronaldo’s glitzy unveiling, it also hosted the Maradona Cup between Barcelona and Boca Juniors in 2021, a friendly match that was held to commemorate the life of the Argentina superstar who died the preceding year.