Ronaldo's move to Al-Nassr sees engagement in Saudi Pro League grow

Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to Al-Nassr sees engagement in the Saudi Pro League grow by more 4,000 per cent… but he still attracts less fan attention than Lionel Messi

  • Cristiano Ronaldo was the first major star to move to Saudi Arabia last year 
  • Several big-name players have since headed to Saudi on mega contracts
  • Listen to the latest episode of Mail Sport’s podcast ‘It’s All Kicking Off!’ 

Cristiano Ronaldo has contributed to a staggering rise of fan engagement in the Saudi Pro League (SPL), but he still attracts less supporter attention that his long-term rival Lionel Messi, according to new data.

The Portuguese superstar was the first major name to move to the Middle East when he joined Al-Nassr at the end of last year on a staggering £173million-per-year deal.

He was followed in the summer by the likes of Karim Benzema, Neymar, Sadio Mane, Riyad Mahrez and Jordan Henderson as SPL clubs spent more than £750m in the market.

And, according to data from LiveScore, a real-time sports update provider which has more than 50 million monthly users, the arrival of several global stars to the league has led to a colossal upsurge in football fans’ interest.

Statistics from LiveScore’s app shows there has been a growth of 4,403 per cent in fans interacting with the SPL over the past year.

Cristiano Ronaldo has contributed to a huge rise of fan engagement in the Saudi Pro League

Several big-name stars have subsequently moved to Saudi Arabia, including Karim Benzema

Back in August 2022, the app’s SPL page received just 11,201 engagements, with this since rising to 1,181,442 last month. 

Ronaldo has netted 25 goals in 30 appearances for Al-Nassr since joining and their team page on LiveScore has also seen visits rise exponentially from a mere 576 in August 2022 to 942,713 a year later – an increase of 1,636 per cent.

Meanwhile, Al-Hilal – who added Neymar, Kalidou Koulibaly, Ruben Neves and Aleksandar Mitrovic among others in the summer – were second with 669,328 visits, while Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson’s Al-Ettifaq received 544,063 page visits during the same period.

The increase in attention and popularity of the SPL has seen it eclipse France’s Ligue 1 as the third-highest league in the world with regards to fan engagement, with its 1,181,442 visits outshining Ligue 1’s 983,193.

It is also far clear of the MLS, despite Messi moving to the US and joining Inter Miami in the summer. 

Data from LiveScore showed there has been a growth of 4,403 per cent in fans interacting with the Saudi Pro League in the past year with stars such as Neymar also moving to the Middle East

However, Lionel Messi’s individual livescore player page still outshines his great rival Ronaldo 

The MLS saw 537,410 page views on the app in August 2023, which is just 45 per cent of the SPL’s 1,181,442.

However, despite Ronaldo helping to increase the league-wide appeal in Saudi Arabia, Messi’s individual player page is still statistically outperforming him, with the Argentine receiving 26,292 engagements on the app in August 2023, compared to Ronaldo’s 17,648.

Commenting on the data, and the rise in interest of the SPL, Ric Leask, Marketing Director at LiveScore Group, said: ‘The Saudi Pro League has made headlines due to some landmark transfers and the general growth of the domestic game, so we were expecting to see an increase of LiveScore users engaging with the competition across the board. 

‘The ripple effect is clear for all to see, and the trends we are witnessing showcase the true shift in fans’ interest in Saudi Pro League football.’

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