It’s officially time to start looking ahead. With 2022 coming to an end, here are five things we expect to happen in world soccer in 2023.
Editor’s note: This story was published before Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to Al Nassr was confirmed by the club.
Canada wins Women’s World Cup
Never before have fans enjoyed two World Cups in such quick succession. Just seven months after the completion of an enthralling men’s tournament in Qatar, the women descend on Australia and New Zealand to take center stage in July. And similar to Lionel Messi’s satisfying triumph with Argentina, the Women’s World Cup will also feature a storybook victory for one of the sport’s most iconic players. Christine Sinclair, playing in her sixth – and likely final – edition of the quadrennial event, will captain reigning Olympic champion Canada to its first World Cup title.
The transformative impact of the gold medal-winning performance in Tokyo and the newfound pedigree that comes with it can’t be overstated – Bev Priestman’s team has forever graduated from title hopeful to bonafide contender. Canada, ranked No. 6 in the world, will also bring the most talented and complete squad the nation has ever assembled for a major tournament. Those merging factors will result in Sinclair, the most prolific player in international football history, capping her legendary career with a World Cup trophy. The Canadian soccer wave will continue unabated in 2023.
Haaland rewrites record books
Erling Haaland is on a mission. Breaking the Premier League’s single-season scoring record isn’t enough – he wants to obliterate it. And the 22-year-old is well on his way. Haaland already has 20 tallies to his name in just 14 league appearances during his maiden campaign with Manchester City. Nobody has ever reached that mark faster, so that’s one record down. He scores goals with machine-like efficiency and ruthlessness, which will serve him well as he chases down and eventually smashes the benchmark for most markers in a Premier League season. In a 38-match campaign, that record currently belongs to Mohamed Salah, who found the net 32 times in 2017-18. Andy Cole and Alan Shearer each scored 34 goals in the Premier League’s 42-game era. Both standards are set to fall.
“I kind of recharged my batteries, and to watch other people score and win games in the World Cup kind of triggers me and motivates me and also irritates me,” Haaland, who didn’t play in the World Cup, said of his recent break. “I’m more hungry and more ready than ever.” That is absolutely terrifying. His insatiable scoring drive will lead City to their fifth Premier League title in the last six seasons.
Mbappe powers PSG to Champions League glory
Paris Saint-Germain – at long last and after obscene levels of investment over the years – will finally capture the elusive Champions League title so desperately craved by the club’s Qatari ownership, and Kylian Mbappe will be the catalyst. Despite winning the Golden Boot at the World Cup and scoring an unforgettable hat-trick in the final, Mbappe was overshadowed by Lionel Messi. At club level, though, the Frenchman is the leading light. The heartbreak of just missing out on the World Cup victory will become additional fuel for Mbappe, who will hit another stratosphere of superstardom in 2023.
Led by their incandescent forward, PSG will get over the hump in the Champions League, knocking off Bayern Munich in a rousing last-16 tie before eventually taking down Manchester City in the final. The most explosive player in world football will parlay that success into the first Ballon d’Or of his career. It’ll be the first of many. The only question remaining is whether or not he’ll win them at PSG or Real Madrid, where he clearly envisions himself at some point very soon.
Ronaldo fades into background
Cristiano Ronaldo remaining unsigned says it all. The Portuguese superstar has been a free agent for over a month after engineering his exit from Manchester United with a now-infamous incendiary interview. The 37-year-old has been pining for a switch to another top European club to play in the Champions League, but to date, no interest has materialized from teams of that caliber. If the suitors were there, Ronaldo would have put pen to paper already. Instead, the lone contract on the table is from Saudi Arabian side Al Nassr, who have reportedly submitted an eye-watering offer worth £175 million per year.
Without any other admirers, a clearly declining Ronaldo will have no choice but to follow the money. In joining Al Nassr, he’ll fade into sporting irrelevance, becoming a largely forgotten figure. Being one of the most famous people alive, Ronaldo will always hold a certain level of celebrity and influence, but from an on-pitch perspective, joining the Riyadh-based club will remove him from the typical everyday conversations in which he’s featured so prominently for over a decade.
Infantino tightens grip on world football
When Gianni Infantino succeeded ex-president Sepp Blatter as the head of FIFA in 2016, the Swiss-Italian administrator vowed to clean up world football’s disgraced governing body. “We will restore the image of FIFA and the respect of FIFA. And everyone in the world will applaud us,” he said at the time. Well, about that. Instead of applause, he’s been the subject of widespread ridicule and disdain. If anything, Infantino has largely continued along the tarnished path of his predecessor.
That is set to continue. Barring an unlikely resignation or forcible ouster, Infantino will be re-elected for his third term as FIFA chief in March. He’s already overseen significant changes to the sport, including an expanded 48-team men’s World Cup and super-sized Club World Cup. He also tried and failed to implement a biennial World Cup, an idea that was widely panned. What radical ideas does he have left up his sleeve? Expect Infantino to attempt to hatch another harebrained scheme in 2023.
Over the next 12 months, a fresh crop of footballers will establish themselves atop the men’s game. Here, theScore looks at some talented youngsters – aged 21 and under – who are set to flourish in 2023, while deliberately excluding those who made our lists in previous years.
Previous selections: 2019 | 2020 | 2021 (Part one and two) | 2022
Excitement over Adeyemi’s potential surged last season when he scored 19 goals and contributed five assists during Red Bull Salzburg’s title-winning campaign. He hasn’t hit the ground running since swapping Austria for Germany, with a nagging foot injury harming his transition, but you can trust Dortmund to do a good job in giving the pacey frontman plenty of minutes against the best teams in Europe.
Benoit Badiashile ??
Club: AS Monaco | Age: 21 | Position: Center-back
Badiashile, on the brink of joining Chelsea, is ready to test himself away from Ligue 1 and possesses the physical attributes that should make him a good fit for Premier League football. His age, left-footedness, and experience of 106 appearances in France’s top flight add to his appeal, and he’s skilled at progressing play from the back with measured passes. One of his finest attributes is his knack for outpacing forwards and ushering them off the ball – it looks so effortless for him.
Alejandro Balde ??
Club: Barcelona | Age: 19 | Position: Full-back
Xavi was so impressed with Balde’s performances during preseason that he immediately tasked the young left-back with challenging for Jordi Alba’s starting spot in the Barcelona lineup. Balde was picked for Barca’s second match of the season and repaid his manager’s faith by quickly setting up Robert Lewandowski’s first La Liga goal. The teenager seems determined to make up for lost time after injuries disrupted his progress last season. He was included in Spain’s World Cup squad and appeared four times at the competition.
The biggest risk to Bella-Kotchap’s development is his club. Southampton didn’t feel stable throughout Ralph Hasenhuttl’s four-year reign, and his successor, Nathan Jones, has had a rough start to his tenure. Nevertheless, Bella-Kotchap impressed enough with the Saints to earn his first Germany call-up in September. He puts his acceleration to good use, shutting down attacks early or mopping up for his teammates when they’ve been beaten.
Club: Palmeiras | Age: 16 | Position: Striker
Unless you’ve got access to Brazilian football on your television, you’re not going to see Endrick regularly until he joins Real Madrid in July 2024. The teenage forward is a phenomenon, scoring three goals over seven outings as Palmeiras finished top of the Serie A standings. His rise since his professional debut in October has been spectacular, and he’ll relish the prospect of joining Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo in Los Blancos’ attack.
Enzo Fernandez ??
Club: Benfica | Age: 21 | Position: Midfielder
Fernandez already hinted at his unbridled potential in the Champions League group stage when he outclassed his contemporaries at Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus. Then he was one of the best midfielders in Qatar as he helped Argentina capture its third World Cup, keeping the team ticking with his mature use of the ball while proving to be a tigerish opponent out of possession. His goal against Mexico wasn’t bad either.
Alejandro Garnacho ??
Club: Manchester United | Age: 18 | Position: Winger
There were concerns over Garnacho’s attitude and defensive work earlier in the season, but he’s a player who gets fans off their seats. He oozes confidence, running at opponents and daring them to challenge him. He can create and finish as well: In the space of 10 days in November, he became Manchester United’s youngest non-English goalscorer in Europe, assisted twice in the League Cup, and nudged in a 93rd-minute winner in the Premier League.
You’ve all heard of him by now. Gvardiol’s domineering displays at the back provided the foundation for Croatia’s run to the 2022 World Cup semifinals. His 6-foot-1 frame is intimidating, but don’t write him off as an old-school defender: He produced the second-most interceptions in Qatar and ranked third for total passes by a Croatian behind Marcelo Brozovic and Luka Modric. RB Leipzig could demand a world-record fee for a defender when the time comes to sell.
Khvicha Kvaratskhelia ??
Club: Napoli | Age: 21 | Position: Winger
Kvaratskhelia’s style is somewhat unrefined – and that’s not a bad thing. Rather than adhering to strict tactical lessons in a lavish European academy, his impulsiveness and trickery flourished while he played in Georgia and Russia. He could take risks and make mistakes. He was allowed to entertain. That increasingly rare introduction to the game has created one of the most watchable and unpredictable players on the globe: like legendary Georgian playmaker Georgi Kinkladze with a dirt bike engine.
Marcos Leonardo ??
Club: Santos | Age: 19 | Position: Forward
Marcos Leonardo is determined to make Brazil’s No. 9 shirt his own. There’s plenty of evidence from his first season as a Santos regular to suggest he could claim the coveted jersey in time for his country’s 2026 World Cup campaign. He’s full of cheek, charm, and class. He scored 13 goals over 35 appearances during the 2022 Brazilian Serie A season and has a wide repertoire of finishes, including powerful drives and audacious lobs.
Rico Lewis ?gbeng
Club: Manchester City | Age: 18 | Position: Full-back
Lewis only turned 18 in November, but he’s already playing significant minutes at right-back for Manchester City ahead of Joao Cancelo and Kyle Walker. He scored in his full Champions League debut against Sevilla and played one half of that game in an inverted role before staying wide as a traditional, overlapping full-back in the other half. It seems he’s already mastered the Pep Guardiola playbook.
Ian Maatsen ??
Club: Chelsea | Age: 20 | Position: Full-back
Ben Chilwell’s injury issues and Marc Cucurella’s underwhelming start to life at Stamford Bridge could work out well for Maatsen. The versatile Chelsea youngster previously had spells on loan at Charlton Athletic and Coventry City, and he’s now thriving in Vincent Kompany’s attack-minded Burnley side. He can sometimes be erratic and predominantly spends time in the opposition’s half, so he could be a strong left-wing-back option for Chelsea next season.
Nuno Mendes ??
Club: Paris Saint-Germain | Age: 20 | Position: Full-back
Mendes is already establishing himself among the best left-backs on the globe. He initially boosted his reputation at Sporting CP after becoming a regular starter following the departure of Alex Telles. His speed, close control, and strong link-up play encouraged Paris Saint-Germain to swoop in the summer of 2021, and he quickly claimed the left-back spot ahead of Juan Bernat in the French capital.
Fabio Miretti ??
Club: Juventus | Age: 19 | Position: Midfielder
Juventus have recently been blessed with a flood of talent from their youth academy, and Miretti might be the best of the lot. He’s missed just two Serie A matches this season as he pushes to be a starter in Massimiliano Allegri’s side and has showcased his fine vision, ability to find space between the lines, and impressive decision-making in the final third. Allegri has praised Miretti for playing like a veteran.
Shakhtar Donetsk’s asking price for Mudryk rose sharply during the 2022-23 Champions League group stage. The Ukrainian caused chaos down the left flank, tearing strips off right-backs with his searing pace and notching three goals and two assists over six appearances. Mudryk’s end product still has room for improvement, but his overall quality after just a season and a half in his country’s top tier is jaw-dropping.
Joao Pedro ??
Club: Watford | Age: 21 | Position: Forward
Given his success while recruiting for Brighton & Hove Albion, it’s wise to trust Newcastle United sporting director Dan Ashworth’s moves in the transfer market. Newcastle tried to sign Joao Pedro for £30 million last summer, and the Brazilian’s form in the Championship has dispelled any reservations over the size of that fee. He’s scored eight times and assisted twice for an underperforming Watford side and only ranks behind Sheffield United’s Iliman Ndiaye in England’s second tier for successful dribbles.
Goncalo Ramos ??
Club: Benfica | Age: 21 | Position: Striker
Ramos had no problem with replacing Portugal icon Cristiano Ronaldo in the starting XI, scoring a hat-trick as the Selecao obliterated Switzerland in the World Cup round of 16. It was the perfect way for Ramos to mark his first international start. His heroics in Qatar came as no surprise to Benfica fans, who’ve witnessed the 21-year-old rack up 14 strikes in 22 appearances across all competitions this season. His goals have helped ensure Darwin Nunez wasn’t missed after his big-money move to Liverpool.
Club: Real Madrid | Age: 21 | Position: Winger
With Vinicius down the left and Rodrygo on the right, the edges of Real Madrid’s frontline should be set for the next decade. But, unlike Vinicius, Rodrygo is yet to become a bona fide starter for Carlo Ancelotti’s side, with an untimely hamstring injury midway through the 2021-22 season and Federico Valverde’s immaculate form denying the 21-year-old regular playing time. Rodrygo can be a super sub, but he can also be so much more.
Georginio Rutter ??
Club: Hoffenheim | Age: 20 | Position: Striker
Rutter’s basic numbers are underwhelming: two goals and two assists over 15 Bundesliga appearances. Still, the attacker – who progressed through the Rennes ranks with Eduardo Camavinga – has been one of the most impressive youngsters in Germany’s top flight. His defensive work out of possession is reminiscent of Roberto Firmino, who also improved rapidly at Hoffenheim, but Rutter provides more flair and mobility for his team’s counterattacks.
William Saliba ??
Club: Arsenal | Age: 21 | Position: Center-back
Saliba had to bide his time at Arsenal, but after three separate loan spells away from the club, the defender is a key element of the Gunners’ surprise charge for the Premier League title. He’s proactive without being impulsive. He’s forceful without being reckless. And, importantly for a team that likes to play out from the back, he’s extremely comfortable with the ball at his feet and regularly picks the right pass.
Scally was fast-tracked into senior football when New York City FC signed him to a Homegrown Player contract at 15, but he then found it hard to usurp Anton Tinnerholm in the MLS club’s lineup. That didn’t prevent Scally from earning a move to Europe, and the natural right-back drew plaudits when he made his Bundesliga debut at left-back in a 1-1 draw against Bayern Munich in August 2021. There are plenty of areas where Scally can improve, but being a Monchengladbach regular at just 19 could allow him to reach his potential.
France’s conveyor belt of talent is relentless. Sildillia wowed onlookers in the Bundesliga with his versatility, work rate, and maturity during Freiburg’s marvelous opening half to the 2022-23 campaign. He’s willing to carry the ball or release the midfielders ahead of him with wise passes and can rapidly halt opposition attacks with his pace, brawn, and aerial ability. It’s rare that someone so young is so important to a team.
Kenneth Taylor ??
Club: Ajax | Age: 20 | Position: Midfielder
This list is incomplete without an Ajax player. Taylor enjoyed a breakout campaign under Erik ten Hag as Ajax won the Eredivisie title last season and has proved he’s comfortable in a variety of midfield positions. After making a single substitute appearance for the Netherlands at the World Cup, Taylor will look to kick on in club football and add to his tally of five goals and three assists in the league this term. Ajax chief executive Edwin van der Sar has called Taylor a “gem.”
With the January transfer window set to open on Sunday for most of Europe’s top leagues, we’re teeing up the wheeling and dealing by presenting 50 high-profile players who could be on the move in the coming weeks. It’s notoriously difficult to make opulent signings during the January window, but the mid-season World Cup could reinvigorate the transfer activity after putting a host of players on display. Cristiano Ronaldo and Cody Gakpo may have already decided on their next clubs, but dozens of other stars could also be on the move between now and Deadline Day.
Note: Estimated transfer values provided by transfermarkt.com.
A vital member of Argentina’s victorious World Cup side, Mac Allister thrust himself into the spotlight with consistently industrious performances in Qatar. Dealing from a position of strength, Brighton would demand a sizable fee.
Caicedo’s aforementioned teammate’s showing at the World Cup has somewhat distracted from the fact that the all-action Ecuadorian footballer remains the most desirable midfielder in Brighton’s ranks. He is destined for stardom.
Pulisic remains open to leaving Chelsea in search of more consistent playing time, with Manchester United tipped as a potential suitor. The American phenom, who showcased his leadership qualities at the World Cup, has plenty to offer.
In what will be a common theme for several players on this list, the World Cup helped reinvigorate Ziyech, who – like Pulisic – has struggled for minutes at Chelsea. His creativity was vital during Morocco’s historic run in Qatar.
Zaha is running out of time to secure the big transfer he’s long been mulling. The crafty winger is set to become a free agent this summer and could decide to run down his contract and join a club of his choosing in six months.
Having lost his starting place at the heart of Leicester’s backline, Soyuncu is eyeing a fresh start elsewhere. The pugnacious Turkish defender has been linked with Atletico Madrid, a fit that almost seems too perfect.
Tielemans has seemingly been a fixture of lists just like this since the moment he arrived at Leicester. The Foxes are in a tricky place with the impending free agent. Tumbling toward the drop zone, can they afford to sell him in January?
After finding himself stapled to the bench early in Erik ten Hag’s tenure, Wan-Bissaka is getting a consistent run of minutes after the World Cup. But that may change when Diogo Dalot returns, which could facilitate a loan move.
Spence has four Premier League minutes to his name this season after joining Tottenham from Nottingham Forest. Four! Antonio Conte clearly doesn’t think he’s ready to contribute at this level, and he can’t continue to rot on the bench.
Has there ever been a more glaring case of a talented player joining the wrong club at the wrong time? Felix’s career has stagnated since his mega-money move to Atletico Madrid. It’s time for both sides to move on.
De Paul benefitted greatly from the World Cup after a tough start to Atletico’s campaign. Atleti and the combative midfielder now have options: Trust that his success in Qatar will translate or parlay it into an expensive transfer.
Robert Lewandowski’s arrival and immediate success finding the net have limited Depay’s chances this season. He came close to leaving Barcelona in the summer and will again be a prominent name in January.
Only Lewandowski has scored more La Liga goals so far this campaign than Iglesias, who is being viewed as a potential option to replace Felix at Atletico Madrid. Betis, chasing European football, would likely play hardball, though.
Exciting young full-back Fresneda is catching the eye at Real Valladolid this season, with clubs in Spain and beyond starting to circle. If the teenager does indeed move in January, it will be for more than his humble valuation.
Ascending young midfielders like Musah are always in extremely high demand. It’s simply a matter of when the American footballer will leave Valencia, not if. Various Premier League clubs are apparently contemplating a bid.
Chukwueze, the electrifying Nigerian winger who always looks to make something happen with the ball at his feet, has only made five starts for Villarreal this season – a surprisingly low figure for someone of his skill level.
A public dispute with manager Jose Mourinho means the writing is on the wall for Karsdorp’s Roma career. Likely available for a modest fee in January, various full-back-needy clubs could come calling for the Dutchman.
Speculation about Zaniolo’s future will be rife until he officially signs a new long-term contract with Roma. Serious knee injuries have blighted the versatile Italian player’s career, but his raw talent is undeniable and hypnotic.
Few players benefitted from the World Cup like Amrabat, who enhanced his reputation tenfold with a series of commanding performances. The driving force behind Morocco’s magical run, Amrabat is ready for the next step.
A contract impasse between Skriniar and Inter has Paris Saint-Germain on high alert. The French club – an admirer since last summer when it tried and failed with hefty bids for the imposing Slovakian – will come calling again.
Rabiot, another soon-to-be free agent, is enjoying the best year of his career. Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri adores him like few others and may not sanction a sale, even if it likely means losing him for nothing this summer.
If Juve intend to bring in any reinforcements in January, they’ll need departures to offset those arrivals. McKennie is the most likely candidate, especially as Paul Pogba nears returning, which will only add more midfield competition.
Singo has flashed his enormous potential on multiple occasions. The Ivorian footballer, who thrives in a wing-back role where he can charge forward, is exactly the type of player that modern attack-minded clubs want roaming the flanks.
Bayer Leverkusen desperately want to retain Frimpong until the summer, but as other clubs miss out on targets and get desperate late in the window, a massive offer for the blossoming right-back could change their mind.
Left-back remains a position of need for many top teams across Europe. Finding a player capable and experienced like Guerreiro, who wouldn’t break the bank, is a rarity that could facilitate several offers.
Dortmund need to act very fast to secure Moukoko’s future. The teen sensation, a free agent this summer, is the subject of serious Premier League interest as contract talks between the German club and player stall.
With David De Gea’s future unclear, Manchester United are working to sign Sommer, the Swiss stalwart who has been at Gladbach for nearly a decade. Whether that deal happens now or after the season remains to be seen.
Bensebaini, whose contract with Gladbach expires at campaign’s end, presents another prime opportunity for clubs looking to bolster their left-back ranks. Dortmund, who may need to replace Guerreiro, are interested in the Algerian player.
Kolo Muani only joined Eintracht Frankfurt this year as a free agent after his contract expired with Nantes. Brilliant business by the Bundesliga club in hindsight, as the French striker is now worth a pretty penny.
Doan, the diminutive Japanese winger who can also play in a more central role, bolstered his profile at the World Cup with memorable goals against Germany and Spain. Freiburg will turn a healthy profit whenever he moves on.
Don’t let Lionel Messi posterizing him at the World Cup fool you. Gvardiol is destined for a gargantuan transfer very shortly. The Croatian center-back will anchor the backline of a top club for years to come.
The world learned this winter what Angers fans have been shouting from the rooftops: Ounahi is a burgeoning star. One of the game’s silkiest dribblers, the Moroccan No. 8 was perhaps the one true “breakout” player in Qatar.
Chelsea are reportedly closing in on a deal worth around €40 million to sign Badiashile. The Frenchman has a seductive profile for a central defender: He’s wildly athletic, comfortable on the ball, and, crucially, left-footed.
Only Kylian Mbappe and Neymar have more Ligue 1 goals this season than Moffi, the Nigerian striker powering Lorient’s unlikely push for a European place. A transfer to a mid-table Premier League club could be on the cards.
It was impossible to shake the feeling that Majer deserved more playing time for Croatia at the World Cup. He seemed capable of making something happen every time he touched the ball. Suitors will have noticed that, too.
Versatility is a valued trait in world football, and Alvarez’s ability to play both in midfield and central defense makes him hugely desirable. The Mexican international nearly joined Chelsea in the summer – Ajax can’t hold on to him forever.
Kudus already exploded onto the scene with superlative performances in the Champions League this fall, and the Ghanaian further enhanced his reputation at the World Cup. Ajax have unearthed yet another gem.
Benfica played this one perfectly. Beating the competition to Fernandez in the summer – for a modest fee, at that – will net the club a monstrous profit after his excellent World Cup. Chelsea are working hard to sign the Argentine midfielder.
Anybody who replaces Ronaldo for Portugal and then immediately scores a hat-trick will garner attention. Truth is, Ramos has been filling the net all season for Benfica. The club could be swimming in cash come Feb. 1.
Juranovic looks destined to leave Celtic after the Scottish giants apparently signed his replacement in the form of Canadian international Alistair Johnston. The unwearying Croatian gave a standout performance at the World Cup.
Buchanan, who has devastating pace and trickery, has worked hard to build the defensive side of his game, and he showed at the World Cup that he excels in both phases. Italian clubs are keeping tabs on the Canadian winger.
Livakovic made more saves (24) than any goalkeeper at this year’s event in Qatar and punctuated his performance by turning aside four penalties across Croatia’s shootouts. Any club in need of a netminder should be calling Dinamo Zagreb.
A surprise starter at the World Cup, Noppert made the most of his chance, helping the Netherlands reach the quarterfinals. A big transfer would cap a dramatic rise for the giant shot-stopper, who was in the Dutch second tier two years ago.
Real Madrid’s eye-watering Endrick signing has overshadowed everything happening at Palmeiras right now. But another ascendant Brazilian star is generating interest, with Arsenal closely monitoring Danilo.
Mudryk’s future will likely be one of the hottest topics of the January window. The winger is Arsenal’s primary target this month, but Shakhtar are apparently holding firm in their €100-million valuation. This one could take a while.
Tottenham are keen on adding Porro, who manager Antonio Conte views as an ideal fit at right wing-back. But the apparent existence of a Manchester City buy-back clause in his Sporting contract could complicate matters.
Stop us if you’ve heard this one already, but Morocco’s inspiring fourth-place finish at the World Cup helped fire Amallah into the public spotlight. The midfielder featured in all seven matches for the Atlas Lions.
Souttar almost missed the World Cup entirely due to injury, but the towering Australian center-back recovered in time to deliver some stellar performances for the Socceroos. The likes of West Ham and Wolves are interested in his services.
Chelsea’s strategy of snapping up enticing young players from all over the world continues unabated. The Blues are seemingly on the verge of signing Santos for €12.5 million, adding him to a growing list of promising teenagers.
Isco, once one of the most enchanting attacking midfielders in the world, is now looking for a new club after Sevilla released him earlier this month. How much gas does the former Real Madrid star have left in the tank?
Cristiano Ronaldo is off to Saudi Arabia, completing a lucrative and potentially groundbreaking move to Al Nassr on Friday.
The Portuguese superstar’s contract is worth close to €200 million per year, with commercial deals included, and will run until June 2025, according to Fabrizio Romano of The Guardian. His salary is believed to be the largest ever for a professional footballer, Romano adds.
The decorated attacker, without a club since being released by Manchester United, would be playing in the Saudi Pro League past his 40th birthday if he honored the full contract.
“The vision of what Al Nassr are doing and developing in Saudi Arabia both in terms of men’s and women’s football is very inspiring. We can see from Saudi Arabia’s recent performance at the World Cup that this is a country with big football ambitions and a lot of potential,” Ronaldo, 37, said of his move. “I am fortunate that I have won everything I set out to win in European football and feel now that this is the right moment to share my experience in Asia.”
Ronaldo, a five-time Ballon d’Or winner, reportedly attracted interest from an unnamed Saudi outfit last summer after requesting a transfer from Manchester United. He spurned that opportunity because he wanted to add to his record-breaking tally of 141 Champions League goals and compete for more silverware in Europe. However, no move transpired and Ronaldo eventually left United in November after he made incendiary comments about the club in a tell-all interview with Piers Morgan.
Manchester United said the termination of Ronaldo’s contract was a “mutual agreement.” The veteran marksman followed his disciplinary issues at United with a dispute with then-Portugal head coach Fernando Santos over his substitution during the team’s final group stage game at the World Cup. The disagreement resulted in Ronaldo being dropped to Portugal’s bench after starting each of his country’s previous three matches at the tournament.
Al Nassr, sitting second in the Saudi Pro League table after 10 matches this season, will be Ronaldo’s fifth club. In addition to his two stints with Manchester United, he also starred for Sporting CP, Real Madrid, and Juventus. But he now seems destined to play out the final years of his memorable career away from the spotlight.
Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina and Cameroonian striker Vincent Aboubakar already play for Al Nassr after starring in Europe, while Argentine playmaker Pity Martinez joined from Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United in 2020. Rudi Garcia is the head coach after previously overseeing numerous clubs in Europe, including Roma and Marseille.
Ronaldo’s transfer to Saudi Arabia could give the country a sizable boost to its profile. It’s expected to submit an ambitious bid to host the 2030 World Cup.