[SIZE=6]The life of luxury that awaits Cristiano Ronaldo in Saudi Arabia: Star player could snap up £12.2m palace complete with Olympic-size swimming pool and bask in 50C temperatures in a gated compound cushioned from strict Islamic laws[/SIZE]
The Portuguese striker is set to be warmly welcomed by rulers of the desert Kingdom who are desperate to make Saudi Arabia more appealing to Western visitors.
Ronaldo, 37, is reported to be on the verge of signing up for the leading Saudi football club Al Nassr in a golden deal which will net him an estimated £ 175 million a year.
The move is set to see him become an ambassador for Saudi Arabia’s bid to host the World Cup in 2030, following in the footsteps of David Beckham who controversially promoted Qatar in this year’s finals.
Cristiano Ronaldo and his family will enjoy a life of luxury in the sun if he moves to Saudi Arabia to become one of the Islamic country’s highest profile residents. Pictured: A property in Riyadh which is on the market for £12.2million and could be potentially bought by Ronaldo
Ronaldo, 37, (pictured with his family) is reported to be on the verge of signing up for the leading Saudi football club Al Nassr in a golden deal which will net him an estimated £175million a year
The father-of-five and his long-term partner Georgina Rodriguez are expected to live as ex-pats in a Western compound or palace, largely cushioned from the Conservative country’s strict Islamic laws.
Ronaldo’s anticipated arrival follows determined efforts by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to modernize his country and soften its hardline international reputation.
Al Nassr which is based in the Saudi capital Riyadh targeted the legendary forward after his contract with Manchester United was terminated earlier this month due to him slating the club in his bombshell interview with Piers Morgan.
Riyadh is known as one of Saudi’s most Conservative cities where locals observe prayers five times a day, while summer temperatures can soar to over 50C and dry winds can often bring a haze of sand.
While it was once famed chiefly for its palm trees and dates, the city has now become a sprawling metropolis with skyscrapers and glitzy air-conditioned shopping malls, alongside tree-lined avenues and ancient mosques.
The city is currently boasting what it describes as its Riyadh Season, featuring cultural attractions including concerts and plays, a Winter Wonderland theme park, a toy festive, a Perfume Expo and a celebration of local crafts.
In a softening of Saudi Arabia’s traditional reluctance to embrace other religions, this winter is the third year that shops have been permitted to publicly display Christmas decorations and to celebrate other religious festivals
If his move goes ahead, Ronaldo and his family are likely to live in one of the city’s prestigious neighborhoods, such as Al Muhammadiyah which is known for its top-end restaurants or Al Nakheel which is popular with families due to its international schools.
Both areas are close to Al Nassr’s 25,000-seat stadium at Mrsool Park, formerly known as the King Saud University Stadium, and boast a large number of high-end gated compounds, built for Western residents.
Many feature their own swimming pools, pre-schools, shops, clinics, gyms and restaurants meaning residents hardly every have to leave.
They can live behind their walls, largely shielded from the Mutaween religious police who ensure that mainstream Saudi society is ruled under Sharia law, but have been stripped of much of their power in recent years.
The compounds allow expats to indulge in weekend get-togethers with fellow Westerners behind closed doors, although alcohol is banned as it is throughout Saudi Arabia.
Property rental websites in Saudi Arabia do not list any high-end rental compound properties as they tend to be let out through private agreements with employers of expats.
But properties currently for sale in Riyadh include an eight-bedroom palace priced at 55 million Saudi Riyal (£12.2million) which includes an Olympic-sized swimming pool and a reception foyer with waterfall-features and three additional villas in its grounds.
The palace which could sit alongside Ronaldo’s reported portfolio of eight other properties around the world is in the Al Macqa neighbourhood just three miles from Mrsool Park, and includes accommodation for maids and chauffeurs.
While Ronaldo is likely to be greeted with open arms everywhere he goes, his partner Georgina, an Argentine-born Spanish model, is sure to find life more restrictive in Riyadh than it is in the footballer’s wives enclave in Cheshire where they most recently lived.