What the papers say

The Daily Mirror reports Kevin de Bruyne is high on the list of targets Saudi Arabian clubs intend to pursue next year. The paper says Saudi Pro League club Al-Hilal’s whopping £259million bid for Kylian Mbappe was a wake-up call for the Premier League, with some sides already resigned to losing some of their best players. De Bruyne’s former Manchester City team-mate Riyad Mahrez joined Al-Ahli this summer, joining a growing list of high-profile players making the switch.

Speaking of Kylian Mbappe, the Mirror also reports the 24-year-old would be prepared to spend a season in the Premier League on loan before securing his dream move to Real Madrid. The Paris St Germain and France forward’s representatives are believed to have held discreet discussions with a selection of Premier League club intermediaries – with Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool rumoured to be interested in his signature.

Kasper Schmeichel is in line for a shock return to the Premier League. According to the Leicester Mercury, citing Eurosport Denmark, the 36-year-old is in discussions with Nottingham Forest over a move from French club Nice.

And The Telegraph reports Chelsea are gearing up to make an improved bid for Brighton midfielder Moises Caicedo.

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

Mohamed Salah: Saudi Arabian side Al-Ittihad are set to offer £51.8m for the Liverpool forward, reports Arabic publication Al Riyadiah.

Tosin Adarabioyo: The Sun says the Fulham defender has rejected a proposed Tottenham move in favour of a potential transfer to Monaco.

Players are preparing to return to Premier League action beginning on August 11, with champions Manchester City looking to follow up an historic campaign last time.

Pep Guardiola’s side are favourites to add another title to their honour roll after last season’s Treble, though rivals will be confident of at least closing the gap.

Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the talking points ahead of the 2023-24 campaign.

City to make history… again?

No English club have won four consecutive league titles, so Manchester City stand once again on the precipice of making history.

How the team respond to last season’s remarkable Treble – whether it will be the catalyst for domination domestically and in Europe or will hang over them like a cloud – is the main question ahead of Guardiola’s eighth season in charge, particularly after finishing the last campaign on such a high.

Manchester United added back-to-back titles after their Treble success in 1999, and with City seemingly not getting any weaker it will be hard to look past them matching their great rivals’ feat again.

Chelsea bidding to return to the elite

Chelsea finished last season in need of major surgery but early indications are that the club are using pre-season effectively, both on and off the pitch, to turn things around.

Transfer activity has looked promising with a bloated squad having been slimmed down, even if new head coach Mauricio Pochettino has emphasised the need for further cuts.

Recruitment has been more targeted to the team’s requirements than in previous windows, with Nicolas Jackson and Christopher Nkunku having impressed in attack on the tour of the United States, while player fitness has also improved.

A return to the Champions League next season after a dismal 12th-place finish last term will likely be viewed as the minimum requirement.

Added time to add up

A significant increase in time added on at the end of either half split opinion when it was introduced at last year’s World Cup, but the change is set to apply to Premier League games this season.

The stated aim from FIFA is to eradicate time-wasting and increase the proportion of a match that the ball is in play.

Luton looking to home comforts

Luton were one of the 22 original signatories to the document that founded the Premier League, but after being relegated in 1992 it has taken the Hatters 33 years to finally take their place back in England’s top flight.

Apart from the novelty of the club’s 10,356-capacity Kenilworth Road becoming the smallest ever Premier League ground – with its famous away entrance that involves effectively cutting through somebody’s back garden – there will be the question of how cut out Rob Edwards’ side are for competing in the world’s richest league.

There has been little transfer activity to reinforce Edwards’ promotion heroes so far, with Aston Villa’s Marvelous Nakamba the only player in with significant Premier League experience. The cramped, inhospitable conditions of their home ground could prove their greatest asset if they are to beat the drop.

The spectre of Saudi Arabia

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has said he is not concerned about the growing financial power of Saudi Arabia and its success so far in luring world stars, but the conversation about the Pro League’s emergence as an attractive home to players still in their prime is unlikely to die down soon.

The question of co-ownership and its potential to undermine Financial Fair Play will continue to be asked, as it was when Allan Saint-Maximin moved from Newcastle to Al Ahli – two clubs owned by the Saudi Public Investment Fund – for £23million.

Masters may be moved to revise his outlook should the exodus of stars to the Gulf state continue.

Jordan Henderson and Riyad Mahrez are the latest big-name players to complete the switch to the Saudi Pro League this summer.

Top target Kylian Mbappe appears to have snubbed an approach from Al Hilal, but that has not halted a powerful recruitment drive by the oil-rich PIF-owned Saudi clubs as the league looks to establish itself among the best in the world.

Here, the PA news agency looks at 12 players to have made the move to the Middle East.

Cristiano Ronaldo – Al-Nassr

After his acrimonious departure from Manchester United, five-time Ballon D’Or winner Ronaldo headed to Saudi Arabia as a statement signing that told the footballing world the league meant business.

Karim Benzema – Al-Ittihad

Reigning Ballon D’Or winner Benzema followed his former Real Madrid team-mate, leaving the Spanish capital after his contract expired having won five Champions League titles during his stay.

Jordan Henderson – Al-Ettifaq

Former Liverpool captain Henderson has signed a three-year deal worth a reported £700,000 a week, leaving Anfield after 12 years to link back up with former team-mate Steven Gerrard, who is now the Saudi club’s manager.

Riyad Mahrez – Al-Ahli

Mahrez is the latest high-profile SPL recruit after Manchester City agreed a deal worth up to £30m for the Algeria winger, who had two years remaining on his contract and cost the English club £60m in 2018.

N’Golo Kante – Al-Ittihad

Like his fellow France international Benzema, Kante headed for the Gulf on a free transfer as he opted to leave Chelsea at the end of his deal, albeit with considerable concerns over his fitness.

Kalidou Koulibaly – Al Hilal

Having spent just a single season at Stamford Bridge, Senegal centre-back Koulibaly departed Chelsea for a fee in the region of £20m and with a team-mate and compatriot not far behind.

Ruben Neves – Al-Hilal

Portugal international Neves had helped Wolves out of the Sky Bet Championship before enjoying five Premier League campaigns at Molineux, establishing himself as one of the highest-regarded midfielders in the division – something that earned him a reported £47million move.

Edouard Mendy – Al-Ahli

Mendy lost his place as first-choice goalkeeper at Chelsea having arrived at the club in 2020. He made just 10 Premier League appearances last season before opting for a move to Saudi Arabia.

Marcelo Brozovic – Al-Nassr

Brozovic bowed out of Inter Milan after captaining the Serie A side in their Champions League final loss to Manchester City, the 30-year-old Croatia midfielder heading to Saudi after eight seasons and five major trophies in Italy.

Roberto Firmino – Al-Ahli

The highest-scoring Brazilian in Premier League history, Firmino enjoyed a long and emotional goodbye to the Liverpool supporters, among whom he was a firm favourite after eight years at Anfield.

Jota – Al-Ittihad

Having hit 15 goals to help Celtic win a domestic treble, former Portugal youth international Jota clearly caught the eye of the money-men in Saudi Arabia and made the £25m move at the start of July.

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic – Al-Hilal

Lazio’s player of the season in 2020-21 and 2021-22, Milinkovic-Savic had been touted as a midfielder who would make his mark at the highest level of European football. Now, though, he will be turning out in the Saudi Pro League after a reported £34.3m switch.

Campaign group Stonewall believes Jordan Henderson has an opportunity to “create a new blueprint” for discussion about LGBTQ+ rights after his controversial move to Saudi Arabia.

The England midfielder was viewed as a huge ally to the LGBTQ+ community during his time as Liverpool captain so his switch to Al-Ettifaq in a country where homosexuality is illegal and punishable by death has understandably attracted widespread criticism.

Stonewall’s director of external affairs Robbie de Santos hopes the attention the move has attracted will help shine further light on Saudi Arabia.

“We are watching with interest because what comes next is the most important thing,” De Santos told the PA news agency.

“Does he continue to be an ally and what does that look like in the context of playing in Saudi Arabia? It feels to me that this is the most high-profile, global conversation we’ve had about a footballer moving to Saudi Arabia.

“I think this is an opportunity to create a new blueprint for doing that because Jordan has been such a passionate advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. Other players who have gone over have not had that kind of record.

“Jordan has an incredible opportunity to break that cycle and to be outspoken about LGBTQ+ rights because no-one can pretend he hasn’t done that.

“He is of a different generation from someone like David Beckham, who is a very apolitical character and hasn’t said anything outside of convention whereas Jordan Henderson has.”

However, the signs are not encouraging as the colour and black-and-white montage video Al-Ettifaq used on their social media channels to announce Henderson saw any image of him wearing a rainbow captain’s armband greyed out.

“I was shocked but not surprised at such blatant erasure of the LGBTQ+ community through that and it shines a light on just how systematic the Saudi authorities and the prevailing culture is, eliminating and eradicating the visibility of our community there,” De Santos added.

Considering the backlash to Henderson’s move it is possible other footballers may think twice about giving their full backing to LGBTQ+ rights to avoid being accused of hypocrisy if they eventually take the multi-millions on offer from a move to Saudi.

Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign, in support of LGBTQ+ inclusion in sport, fitness and physical activity, was launched in 2013 and receives high-profile backing from Premier League footballers but there will be a redoubling of efforts this season.

“I am sure there will be some people who will be making that calculation,” said De Santos.

“But what we are seeing is football is changing as these different generations come through. This is a generation who is growing up with LGBT friends and family and it creates a different kind of accountability.

“Our message this year is very much we have to keep it up. We will be directly speaking to that risk of complacency. Just because players have worn rainbow captains’ armbands or worn rainbow laces it doesn’t mean the job is done.

“It doesn’t mean that LGBT people in sport have full equality so all we can do as a campaigning charity is to keep up the sense of urgency and keep appealing to footballers to use their incredible position and incredible power in society for the good of our community.”

Riyad Mahrez has completed his move from Manchester City to Saudi Arabian club Al-Ahli, the Premier League outfit have announced.

City agreed a fee understood to be worth up to £30million with Al-Ahli for the Algeria international last week.

Mahrez, 32, spent five years at the Etihad Stadium and helped the club win 11 trophies, including four Premier League titles and the Champions League.

Mahrez told the treble winners’ website, mancity.com: “To play for Manchester City has been an honour and privilege.

“I came to City to win trophies and enjoy my football and I achieved all that and so much more.

“I have had five unforgettable years with this football club, working with unbelievable players, fantastic supporters, and the best manager in the world.

“Manchester City will forever be a huge and happy part of my life.”

Jordan Henderson's move to Saudi Arabia is a "massive step back" for LGBT+ equality in football.

That is the view of Paul Amann, who founded the Liverpool-backed fan group Kop Outs in 2016 to provide a voice for LGBT+ fans.

After a hugely successful 12-year spell that has seen him captain Liverpool to both Premier League and Champions League glory, Henderson joined Saudi Pro League side Al Ettifaq this week to play for Reds legend Steven Gerrard.

Henderson is rumoured to be earning up to £700,000 a week in the Gulf state, where it is illegal to be homosexual and LGBT+ rights are not recognised by the government.

Having been a strong supporter of LGBT+ equality while playing in the Premier League, including being a big advocate for the rainbow laces campaign, Henderson's move has been criticised by Amann, who feels the 33-year-old midfielder's relocation to Saudi Arabia will tarnish his legacy as the latest Liverpool favourite to make the transfer.

"It's a massive step back," Amann told Stats Perform. "Not least when you look at the manager who he's moving to play [under], Steven Gerrard.

"You'd like to think that it was just one or two isolated incidents. Sadly you've got Robbie Fowler taking up a managerial post other there, [Roberto] Firmino going to play [there], probably Fabinho as well as Henderson. It's not a good look.

"I'd like to think that the protests bringing to the fore human rights issues, which are the base of our complaint against why people shouldn't go there and take part in sportswashing, will make people more aware of the risks and dangers of going to support that sportswashing operation.

"Fowler, Gerrard, Hendo. They've known working class issues as people born and brought up in the north, they know why we hold the values they do. For them to run off, chase after money, it's pretty shameful."

Amann is particularly disappointed in Gerrard, who signed a two-year contract to coach Al Ettifaq in early July.

"Yes, I've lost a lot of respect for Gerrard as a person," Amann explained. "His playing legacy is secured, same as Hendo, but his personal reputation and their personal legacy – I wouldn't go out of my way to meet them as people, because they've lost a lot of stature by what they've chosen to do.

"Steven Gerrard played at LA Galaxy, alongside Robbie Rogers – another out, gay footballer. If Stevie is prepared to dump a former team-mate and the principles that they stood and lived by so readily to move to Saudi and entice other team-mates to come and play for him… it's a very weird set-up."

Amann is confident that Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp will, privately, be disappointed in Henderson's decision.

He said: "Jurgen has always struck me as someone who is more than skin deep on these issues, he's invested in the values we espouse as a city and as a club.

"I'd really like to think that he's thinking 'Jordan, just give your head a wobble, you don't need to be going to a place like that'."

Despite recent events, Amann is hopeful that the criticism received by the likes of Henderson will put off players and managers from making the move, much like Fulham head coach Marco Silva, who reportedly turned down a two-year deal worth £40million to join Al Hilal.

"Fortunately, there's proof that not everyone can be bought," Amann stated. "Silva has turned around and said 'No' at least twice, and that's a bit of a beacon of hope that there are more people out there with integrity, who will stand by their principles and won't think the only thing that's important is money.

"We've got to remember the vast majority of people in this world are decent, they stand by their principles and shame on those that don't."

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters is “not too concerned” for now about Saudi Arabia’s ascendancy in football as he reasoned it takes time to become a dominant force.

Al Hilal submitted a world-record £259million offer for Paris St Germain forward Kylian Mbappe, who has 12 months left on his current deal and been given permission to speak to the Saudi club.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema have already joined the country’s Pro League while Liverpool have agreed a deal with Al-Ettifaq – managed by Steven Gerrard – to sell their captain Jordan Henderson.

“Something new is obviously happening,” Masters told BBC Sport. “The Saudi Pro League have stated they want to be a top 10 league by 2030.

“They are investing in players and managers to try to raise the profile of the league and clubs.

“It has taken us 30 years to get to the position that we have in terms of profile, competitiveness and the revenue streams that we have.

“I wouldn’t be too concerned at the moment but, obviously, Saudi Arabian clubs have as much right to purchase players as any other league does.

“In the end, the Premier League is a £6billion-a-year operation in terms of revenue and that money is spent reinvested into the pitch. All good competitions have to have revenue streams to back them up.”

John Barnes is unconvinced the influx of star talents into the Saudi Pro League will necessarily grow Saudi Arabian football on the world stage.

Cristiano Ronaldo's mid-season arrival at Al-Nassr after the Qatar 2022 World Cup marked the start of a dramatic influx of major players joining clubs in Saudi Arabia's top league.

Karim Benzema, N'Golo Kante and Roberto Firmino are among those who have made the move to the Saudi Pro League, where lucrative contracts have tempted several high-profile players.

Liverpool legend Barnes is not sure the competition's aggressive recruitment will improve their position, pointing to the past failures of the Chinese Super League and Saudi Arabia's own strong international record.

"Football has always been big all over the world, since the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s," he told Stats Perform. "Now, because of the media attention you're looking at what's going on in Saudi Arabia.

"10 years ago, people went to China, and now they're going to Saudi Arabia. But once again, like America, just getting some retired players, or players who want to go for the money to go there may not be as good.

"It's more to make the statement of being able to attract superstar players there. That's not necessarily going to grow the league and Saudi Arabia has been doing well internationally anyway.

"They qualified for the World Cup, they were the only team to beat Argentina. Once again, that's very similar to what goes on in America.

"If ex-players or players coming towards the careers want to make a lot of money, they do that. That doesn't necessarily impact the local football."

Fellow former Liverpool player Steven Gerrard is another who has made the move to the Saudi Pro League, to manage Al-Ettifaq, while Jordan Henderson is also expected to join him there.

Henderson's reported move has led to a mixed reception on Merseyside, but Gary McAllister – another former Liverpool player – believes Gerrard should be admired for stepping out of his comfort zone.

"I think Steven was close [to] a couple of jobs in the UK, and they didn't quite land for him," he added. "There was an opportunity, and the club obviously wanted him strongly.

"He's made the decision to go and have a go. I think that's something that you've got to admire. He is going to go there, and it's going to be different, it's a new adventure for him.

"But he's back in the game, and that's what he wanted to do. He wanted to get back in the game. There weren't the avenues here or across Europe. He's made the decision, and he's gone for it."

McAllister believes Saudi Arabia will continue to push and grow its sporting portfolio, but acknowledges there is a long way to go for their football system to catch up with Europe.

"Over the past 10 years, Saudi has gone big and has been able to persuade Formula One to go there," he added. "All the big heavyweight championship bouts have been brought there.

"Obviously, what's happened recently with [LIV] golf, they want to be involved in world sport. I don't think it's going to go away, I think they'll continue to try and invest in all sports right across the board.

"[But] there's a long way to go for other countries to try and take away the power of some of the great clubs that have existed for a long time.

"The game is new in Saudi, so it'll take a long time before they can actually match what happens across Europe and in South America, and even in MLS."

Lionel Messi has nothing left to prove in his career and there would be plenty for him to like about playing in Saudi Arabia, according to Steven Nzonzi.

With his time at Paris Saint-Germain seemingly coming to an end after two years, Messi has been linked with a move to Saudi Arabia, where long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo is already playing with Al-Nassr.

The World Cup winner is also being courted by former club Barcelona in LaLiga, while he has often been connected with the possibility of finishing his career in the United States. 

Messi, 35, has a big decision to make and Nzonzi, who has spent two seasons in the Middle East playing with Al-Rayyan in Qatar, knows a move would make a seismic impact on the region, with its reach stretching beyond football.

With World Cup success for Argentina now secured, Nzonzi does not think Messi should feel any pressure to continue chasing the game's biggest honours, even if the prospect of a return to the "club of his heart" Barca may be appealing.

Nzonzi told Stats Perform: "If you are Messi, I think that you have done everything in football, so you can do whatever you want and be fine with your decision.

"You literally have nothing left to prove. It has been already years and years that he has had nothing left to prove – but now he just got the World Cup too.

"So just an easy decision for him, I would say. Maybe not easy, because it's between Barcelona, the club of his heart, and Saudi Arabia, it might not be so easy, I don't know. 

"But in any case, it would be great for Saudi Arabia if you go there for sure. You [would] have [Cristiano Ronaldo] and Messi, the most famous and two of the best players in the world ever. It's great for the Middle East, for Saudi Arabia and for football in general.

"Of course, [with] a player like Ronaldo going into a league like Saudi Arabia, it's going to boost the league, it’s going to boost the Middle East as well, because it's the whole area that can be impacted by this."

Nzonzi, who won the Europa League during a three-year stay with Sevilla that saw him regularly do battle with Messi at Barca, acknowledges the new league would take some getting used to for the forward after playing at the top level for so long, but thinks the lifestyle has plenty to offer.

Asked about playing in the Middle East, he added: "I've been there, I've stayed there two seasons. It was good, it was challenging, because we're always trying to change.

"It is a big change when you’ve been playing at a high level for a long period of time. I was happy to live there. You know, the lifestyle is great. And the football is good, too.

"You learn in any experience, you learn. And that was the most important thing for me, to keep learning to keep helping other players if I can and keep doing my job. That's what I enjoyed the most."

Despite being unable to help PSG to what remains an elusive Champions League triumph, Messi has been productive in winning Ligue 1 twice. 

This season he has 32 goal involvements (16 goals and 16 assists) in 31 top-flight matches, with Saturday's contest at home to Clermont still to come.

Ronaldo and Al- Nassr, meanwhile, sit second in the Saudi Pro League. The former Real Madrid and Manchester United star has scored 14 goals in 16 league appearances.

Cristiano Ronaldo is confident the Saudi Pro League can become one of the world's best competitions in the years to come.

The Portugal captain joined Saudi Arabia's Al Nassr in the aftermath of the 2022 World Cup, with his second spell with Manchester United brought an abrupt end prior to the tournament in Qatar.

A free agent after the Selecao's quarter-final exit at the hands of Morocco, Ronaldo promptly moved to the Middle East and has quickly settled, scoring nine goals in eight Pro League appearances.

While widely considered a weaker league than those in Europe, Ronaldo believes those matches have prepared him for Portugal duty and expects the reputation of the Saudi top flight to improve in time.

"I feel really good," he said ahead of Portugal's Euro 2024 qualifier against Liechtenstein. "That's why I'm here. If I didn't think so, I wouldn't be.

"I'm in a very competitive league. They should look at the Saudi championship differently.

"Obviously, it's not like the Premier League, I'd be lying if I said it was, but it's competitive. I'm surprised by the strength. It has good teams, it is balanced, the Arab players are good, the foreigners give quality.

"Possibly it will be, in five to six years' time, if they continue this plan, the fourth or fifth most competitive league in the world."

Ronaldo's return to United had not ended well as he fell out with Erik ten Hag and fired shots at the club in a no-holds-barred interview while still contracted at Old Trafford.

"Sometimes you have to go through a few things to see who's on my side," he said on Wednesday. "At a difficult stage, you see who is on your side.

"I have no problem saying I've had a bad time in my career, but there's no time for regrets.

"Life goes on and, doing well or not, it was part of my growth. When we're at the top of the mountain, we often can't see what's down.

"Now I am more prepared and this learning was important, because I had never been through this as in the last few months. Now I'm a better man."

There is uncertainty at Paris Saint-Germain due to fears over further financial fair play sanctions, leading to speculation of numerous players being sold or offloaded.

L'Equipe claimed earlier this week that PSG had put on hold contract negotiations with Sergio Ramos and Lionel Messi.

Messi is contracted with PSG until the end of this season, although he reportedly had come to a verbal agreement with the club in December.

Back in September, the Ligue 1 leaders were hit with a €10million fine for FFP violations after the 2020-21 season with a further €45m suspended for any future infringements.

TOP STORY – MESSI'S OFFER TO ECLIPSE RONALDO'S RECORD

Marca reports Lionel Messi is set to receive a world-record €220million (£193m) per year offer from an unnamed Saudi Arabian club.

Messi's contemporary rival Cristiano Ronaldo joined Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr in January in a deal worth €200m, the highest football salary in history.

The Mirror claims the unnamed club is Al Hilal. The Argentinian has constantly been linked with the MLS too.

ROUND-UP

–  Barcelona head coach Xavi has been in touch with Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan about a move, with his contract running out at the end of this season, claims AS.

– Calciomercato claims Marco Verratti is weighing up a move away from Paris Saint-Germain following recent criticism. Verratti penned a contract extension until 2026 recently.

Manchester United are pondering tabling a £105m offer for Eintracht Frankfurt forward Randal Kolo Muani, per Sport Bild.

– Mundo Deportivo claims Manchester United are interested in Barcelona's Franck Kessie as a midfield partner for Casemiro, while Tottenham and Chelsea are also circling for him.

Arsenal are interested in Real Madrid midfielder Eden Hazard who may be available for a cut price with his current deal due to expire in 2024, reports Fichajes.

Paul Pogba is eager to remain at Juventus despite battling injuries throughout this season, claims 90min.

Cristiano Ronaldo has pledged his Player of the Month Award in the Saudi Pro League will be "the first of many" after winning the accolade with Al Nassr.

The Portugal forward, who made the move to the competition following his exit from Manchester United in November, made a quiet start to life with the club in January.

But following his first full month with Rudi Garcia's side, in which he scored two hat-tricks and totalled eight goals in four appearances, he looks to have fully settled into life with them.

Ahead of Al Nassr's 3-1 win against Al Batin on Friday, Ronaldo was presented with the monthly award, and promised it would not be the last one he claimed on social media.

"Happy to win the February Player of the Month Award for the Saudi League," he wrote. "Hopefully the first of many! Proud to be part of this team."

Ronaldo's first strike for the club came with a point-clinching penalty in a dramatic 2-2 draw against Al Fateh on February 3, before he scored all four goals in their 4-0 win over Al Wehda six days later.

Though he drew a blank in their 2-1 win over Al Taawoun, he set up both of his side's goals, supplying assists for Abdulrahman Ghareeb and Abdullah Madu on February 17.

The 38-year-old capped his excellent month with another hat-trick, this time in a 3-0 victory against Damac on February 25, to help keep Al Nassr in the thick of the title race.

Cristiano Ronaldo's Al Nassr scored three goals in injury time to earn a stunning 3-1 win over Al Batin and move top of the Saudi Pro League on Friday.

Ronaldo's side were 1-0 down and looked to be on their way to a first defeat in five matches against an Al Batin team sat bottom of the league and with just one win all season.

But Abdulrahman Ghareeb levelled in the 93rd minute, before Mohammed Al Fatil dramatically put Al Nassr ahead in the 12th minute of additional time.

The points were made safe two minutes later, as Ghareeb set up Mohammed Maran to add a third and move Al Nassr to the top of the table.

Despite his team's spectacular comeback, Ronaldo failed to register a goal involvement for the first time in five matches.

It was not for the want of trying though, as the five-time Ballon d'Or winner had a team-high seven shots, though he hit the target just once.

Ronaldo picked up the league's player of the month award before kick-off, after scoring eight goals and adding two assists during February as his team went unbeaten.

Cristiano Ronaldo's Al Nassr scored three goals in injury time to earn a stunning 3-1 win over Al Batin and move top of the Saudi Pro League on Friday.

Ronaldo's side were 1-0 down and looked to be on their way to a first defeat in five matches against an Al Batin team sat bottom of the league and with just one win all season.

But Abdulrahman Ghareeb levelled in the 93rd minute, before Mohammed Al Fatil dramatically put Al Nassr ahead in the 12th minute of additional time.

The points were made safe two minutes later, as Ghareeb set up Mohammed Maran to add a third and move Al Nassr to the top of the table.

Despite his team's spectacular comeback, Ronaldo failed to register a goal involvement for the first time in five matches.

It was not for the want of trying though, as the five-time Ballon d'Or winner had a team-high seven shots, though he hit the target just once.

Ronaldo picked up the league's player of the month award before kick-off, after scoring eight goals and adding two assists during February as his team went unbeaten.

Cristiano Ronaldo outclassed another Saudi Pro League defence as his second hat-trick in three games earned Al Nassr a 3-0 win over Damak on Saturday.

The former Real Madrid and Manchester United forward had his treble by half-time, following up his four-goal haul two weeks previously against Al Wehda.

Ronaldo's first against Damak was an 18th-minute penalty, awarded after a handball by Farouk Chafai, while his second was a fierce left-footed strike from 20 yards five minutes later as defenders stood off.

The hat-trick was sealed in the 44th minute after a fast break out of defence, with Abdulrahman Ghareeb driving down the left before feeding a pass through to Ayman Yahya.

Yahya might have shot but elected to lay the ball off for 38-year-old Ronaldo to smash home from 10 yards.

Ronaldo hit 44 hat-tricks in his legendary Madrid career, becoming the Spanish giants' record scorer, while he also netted three across two spells with United, and added three trebles during a three-year stint at Juventus.

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