Hours After Cristiano Ronaldo Ditched Portugal for Saudi, 39YO Veteran Contradicts CR7’s Stance

Published Sep 8, 2023 | 10:25 AM EDT

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Cristiano Ronaldo may have swapped elite European soccer for Saudi Arabia. But comments from players in the Saudi league including CR7 also suggest that they think it’s highly competitive. Ronaldo eariler stated that “In a year the Saudi league will overtake the Turkish league and Dutch league.” While Brazilian forward Neymar, has also spoken about how the SPL is very “very competitive”. However, according to 39-year-old Uruguayan defender Maxi Pereira, the Portuguese Primeira Liga is better than Saudi Arabia’s SPL.

Maxi Pereira played in the Portuguese Primeira Liga for both Benfica and Porto for 12 years in total. Now, the Uruguay defender has spoken about the Liga Portugal vs. Saudi Pro League debate at the recent Thinking Football summit in Porto, Portugal.

Former Portuguese Primeira Liga defender thinks the Portuguese league is ahead of the Saudi league


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At the sidelines of the Thinking Football summit in Porto, former Benfica and FC Porto defender Maxi Pereira spoke to the media regarding his thoughts about the Saudi Pro League. According to a report in media outlet RTP Desporto, Pereira said: “Given the class of the footballers who have arrived in Saudi Arabia, there’s been a big reversal in that country, which can be competitive.”


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While adding his thoughts about the comparison between both leagues, Pereira elaborated, “I don’t feel that the Portuguese Premier League is inferior to Saudi Arabia’s, but I don’t want to get into that, as I’ve had no experience there.” However, stating that Liga Portugal is “slightly better”, he added, “As a former player who played in Portugal and now as a fan, I feel that the Premier Liga could be a little better and has the potential to grow,”

Of course, the Portuguese league has been around for a very long time. While the Saudi Pro League is a much newer league in comparison. But with the huge influx of superstar soccer players, the SPL has captured the world’s attention.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar’s comments about the Saudi Pro League

Both Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar have been very encouraging and positive about the growth of the Saudi Pro League. The Brazilian ace, while joining Al Hilal even said, “I believe competitiveness is important. That’s why I am joining this league. I am driven by challenges. I am there to help the league grow.”

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While Ronaldo, who made his move to Al Nassr in January 2023, also suggested that the Saudi Pro League is better than the MLS. This was in reaction to rival Leo Messi joining MLS club Inter Miami. The Portuguese superstar was quoted saying, “The Saudi league is better than MLS”. However, a study done by soccer data company Opta reveals otherwise. The average power rating of MLS clubs stands at  73.2. While the Saudi Pro League’s average club rating of 70.0.


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Both the MLS and the SPL are nearly neck and neck, as per the Opta analysis. But it remains to be seen just how much the Saudi Pro League will grow in the coming years. Despite Maxi Pereira’s comments, there’s a lot to see about the comparative future growth of the leagues in contention. It remains to be seen whether the SPL can out-rank and gain more popularity worldwide as compared to other leagues like in Portugal, the MLS, and other smaller European leagues.

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Written by:

Gaurav Krishnan


One take at a time

With extensive knowledge & over 8+ years of experience as a soccer journalist, Gaurav knows the intricacies of the beautiful game inside out and is now working with EssentiallySports. He played as a No.10 on the pitch during his younger years, modeling his game around his idol Zinedine Zidane.
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Edited by:

Abhishek Das