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Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo attends a training session at Cidade do Futebol training camp in Lisbon, ahead of their Uefa Euro 2024 qualifier against Liechtenstein. Image Credit: AFP

Lisbon: Cristiano Ronaldo said he has been surprised by the level of competitiveness in the Saudi Pro League since joining Al Nassr in January.

“I think you should look at the (Saudi Pro League) in a different way,” he told reporters. “I’m not going to say that the league is a Premier League, that would be a lie.

“But it’s a very competitive league that I’m positively surprised by, a very balanced league and good teams.

Most capped player

“I am sure that in the coming years the league will be … the fourth, fifth or sixth most competitive league in the world,” added Ronaldo, who moved to Al Nassr on a two-and-a-half-year contract worth a reported €200 million ($214.71 million).

Ronaldo is part of the Portugal squad for their Euro 2024 qualifiers against Liechtenstein later on Thursday and Luxembourg on Sunday.

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Al Nassr's Cristiano Ronaldo (right) vies with Abha's Saad Natiq during the Saudi Pro League match in Riyadh. Image Credit: AFP

The 38-year-old, who was benched by former coach Fernando Santos for their last two games at the World Cup, would make his 197th appearance for Portugal if he plays against Liechtenstein, surpassing Kuwait’s Bader Al Mutawa as the most capped player in men’s football.

“I like to break records, I have broken lot of records ...,” said Ronaldo, who debuted for Portugal in 2003.

“This record is special. I’ll be really proud if it happens. But I want to keep playing even more games, I don’t want to stop here.”

No more doubts

Ronaldo admitted there were doubts about his future with the national team, but that’s all in the past now.

“It was all in the balance after the World Cup,” he said. “I reflected with my family and then we came to the conclusion that it was not time to throw in the towel. I learnt a lot from it and I’m very happy to be back.”

Portugal, who are now coached by Roberto Martinez, are in the same qualifying group as Bosnia & Herzegovina, Iceland, Luxembourg, Slovakia and Liechtenstein.

Difficult second spell

Ronaldo also spoke on his difficult second spell with Manchester United, which made him a better man.

“There is no time for regrets in this life. Even if we don’t do so well, it’s part of our life,” Ronaldo said. “When we are at the top of the mountain, it’s hard to see what’s down here and many times I couldn’t. I feel like I’m better prepared now because I can see some things. I’m a better man now.”

The 38-year-old Ronaldo joined Saudi club Al Nassr after his contract was terminated by United following a TV interview in which he criticised manager Erik ten Hag and the club’s owners after being benched and even temporarily suspended by the club.

“I think that everything in life happens for a reason,” he said. “I’m often grateful to go through some difficult things so I can see who is really on my side. At the tough times, you see who is on your side. It wasn’t a very good phase in my life, in my career, first on a personal level and then professionally.”