Cristiano Ronaldo was ‘welcomed’ to South Africa by the country’s tourism authority.
The 37-year-old made the switch to Saudi Arabia at the start of January after his contract at Manchester United was ripped up and was presented to ecstatic fans on Tuesday where he made an embarrassing gaffe in his first interview as an Al-Nassr player.
The Portuguese superstar has penned an eye-watering £177million-a-year contract with Al-Nassr until 2025 but made quite the slip-up in his first press conference in the club’s colours – forgetting what country he was in.
He said: “The evolution of football is different. So for me, it is not the end of my career coming to South Africa.
“This is why I want to change and to be honest I really don’t worry about what people say.”
Ronaldo’s awkward gaffe did not go unnoticed and went viral and the South African tourism authority took full advantage.
They cheekily posted: “Patiently waiting for Ronaldo to arrive like…” with an empty stadium in the tweet, adding: “You’re very welcome in South Africa anytime!”
Ronaldo moved on from the error to insist that he turned down clubs in Europe to join Al-Nassr, including from his home nation Portugal.
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He continued: “I am so proud at making this big decision in my life and my career.
“My work in Europe is done. I played for all the most important clubs. I had many opportunities in Europe. Many clubs in Brazil, Australia, in the US and even Portugal.
“For me this is a good chance with my knowledge and experience to grow very important clubs.
“I want to help many different points and the Al-Nassr’s woman’s team. I want to change the perspective of many people.”
Ronaldo’s reported salary of £177m is believed to make him the world’s best-paid football player, while his geographical gaffe did little to dampen the spirits of the Saudi fans that greeted him at the Mrsool Park.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s latest move comes less than a month after leaving United by mutual consent following an incendiary interview given to Piers Morgan before the World Cup.
In a wide-ranging talk, he took shots at the owners, the Glazers, manager Erik ten Hag and even former teammate Gary Neville – which led to Old Trafford chiefs seeking legal advice over how to rip up his contract.
He appeared to fall out with Portugal boss Fernando Santos at the World Cup when relegated to the bench before the team were knocked out by Morocco in the quarter-finals.