It has been a year to remember for Cristiano Ronaldo, both for reasons good and bad.
The last 12 months has seen perhaps the biggest change for the Portuguese superstar during his footballing career. Ending his time at the top of the European game and becoming the first big-name player to take the plunge in the Saudi Pro League.
There were many who thought his move to Al-Nassr would mark the end of his legendary career. However, after a miserable 2022, he has returned to form for both club and country.
However, there have been a number of issues off the field he has had to combat with in 2023.
So, Mail Sport takes a look at Ronaldo’s hit and miss year.
Cristiano Ronaldo has returned to form on the pitch for both club and country during 2023
There have also been a number of off-field issues that Ronaldo has to contend with, including false accusations that he cheated on his girlfriend Georgina Rodriguez (pictured left)
2023 has brought about the biggest change in his career after joining Saudi side Al-Nassr
Scoring 50 goals for club and country
Ronaldo went into 2023 on the back of the most disappointing season during his iconic playing career.
In 2022, he scored his fewest amount of goals in a calendar year (16) than he has recorded in any year since 2005 (15) – when he was just 20-years-old.
Now 38, he has returned to form – albeit, playing in a much weaker league – scoring 50 goals in all competitions for club and country with three games left to play.
He has netted ten times in nine games for his country, while also scoring 40 in 46 matches for Al-Nassr.
His goals helped Portugal qualify for next summer’s Euro 2024 tournament with a perfect record, while he is the top scorer in the Saudi Pro League – ahead of the likes of Aleksandar Mitrovic, Karim Benzema and team-mate Sadio Mane.
It is the eighth time he has scored 50 goals in a calendar year, though he would need another 19 goals in his remaining three games to match his career-high tally of 69 in 2013, when he played for Real Madrid.
Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 50 goals for club and country since the start of the calendar year
Ronaldo has a vast business empire which includes a growing hotel chain and a media company.
His business interests appears to only be growing as he enters the twilight of his playing career, which will ensure the Portugal legend has plenty to keep his hands full when he eventually decides to hang up his boots.
The forward even co-owns Insparya Medical Clinic hair transplant clinics, but as reported by Spanish outlet Sport last month, the Tax Agency in Spain have opened a file against them after they issued several invoices without VAT to hundreds of clients between 2019 and 2021.
The business claim in defence that alopecia ‘is a disease’ and therefore ‘medical services of diagnosis, prevention, treatment and cure’ are exempt from VAT.
However, the Treasury in Spain have reportedly been claiming that instead transplants are ‘purely for aesthetic purposes’ and therefore their prices must include VAT, which is currently 21 per cent in Spain.
The clinics have handed responsibility over the process to lawyers but insist they have complied with all legislation and regulations.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s hair transplant clinics are ‘under investigation by Spanish authorities after they failed to pay VAT’ – but they ‘claim they are exempt as they are offering a medical service’
Loads of cash
Ronaldo might have been disappointed that Lionel Messi won his eighth Ballon d’Or this year, but when it comes to money, Ronaldo is well ahead of his rival.
Forbes’ list of the highest paid footballers of 2023 has Ronaldo comfortably out in front with earnings of an estimated £207m.
This compares to Messi – who is second on the list – at £108m. Forbes say these figures are based on all prize money, salaries and bonuses earned in a 12-month period, while off-field earnings are an estimate of sponsorship deals, appearance fees, licensing income and cash returns from businesses they operate.
It’s perhaps no surprise that Ronaldo is well out on top given he currently earns a staggering £175m-a-year thanks to Saudi’s millions.
This makes him the highest-paid athlete in the world, even ahead of the likes of NBA superstars LeBron James and Steph Curry.
When you look at the many luxuries and privileges he has been afforded in the Middle East, you can see why he always gives a positive response when asked about life in Saudi.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner is staying in an exclusive gated community with round-the-clock security and has received gifts like £630,000 custom-made watches.
Ronaldo has lived like a king in Saudi Arabia, earning a staggering £175m-a-year at Al-Nassr
Ronaldo stays in an exclusive gated community with round-the clock security
While there are no known issues with life at his Saudi place of residency, there have been some hiccups at the place he could call home once his football career is all said and done.
Reports in Portugal over the summer suggested that construction work on his ‘hospital-sized’ mansion near Lisbon is a year behind schedule in a nightmare scenario which is infuriating the football superstar’s to-be neighbours.
As reported by Look magazine, Ronaldo and his partner Georgina Rodriguez have angered neighbours by carrying out extensive work on the £28million property, which has been ongoing for more than three years and will continue until next year at least.
A video from last month showed there is still much work to do on the mansion – which locals are disparagingly referring to as ‘Pharaoh Ronaldo’s pyramid’ – and resembled a construction site at the time.
It is anticipated that, when he retires from football, Ronaldo and his family will spend their time between Madrid – home for his former club Real Madrid – and near the coast in Lisbon.
But neighbours are understood to be ‘fed up’ with the ongoing project, with one saying: ‘They’ve been building for three years. The house is so big it looks like a hospital.
‘My street has been closed for months, my garden is full of dust. My street has been closed for months, my garden full of dust. All because of Pharaoh Ronaldo’s “pyramid”.
Ronaldo has shared images online of the pool and outside area of his home in Saudi
Cristiano Ronaldo and partner Georgina Rodriguez have angered neighbours with building work on their £28million mansion near Lisbon
Ronaldo’s ‘hospital-sized’ mansion (pictured: CGI impressions of the completed property) is a year behind schedule and currently resembles a construction site
Return to form with Portugal
Cast your mind back 12 months to last year’s World Cup in Qatar.
Ronaldo was coming off his tumultuous exit from Manchester United and things weren’t going much better with Portugal.
As the tournament reached the knockout phase, manager Fernando Santos opted against starting the country’s greatest ever player. He came off the bench against Morocco but couldn’t make a difference in 1-0 quarter-final defeat which sent them crashing out of the tournament.
There were fears his international career was going to end with a whimper – just as his rival Lionel Messi won the one trophy that Ronaldo has not won as Argentina prevailed.
But Ronaldo has returned to form under new manager Roberto Martinez. He played a big part in their progression to Euro 2024 and will be expected to feature at next summer’s tournament – where Portugal will be one of the favourites to lift the trophy for what would be his second time.
Ronaldo has enjoyed a fantastic 2023 with the Portuguese national team under new coach Roberto Martinez, following the disappointment of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar
‘Completely false’ cheating claims
Back in March, Ronaldo had to come out and deny a ‘completely false’ claim by a married Venezuelan influencer who said she had sex with the footballer last year.
The blogger, identified only as Georgilaya, claims Ronaldo cheated on his long-term girlfriend Georgina Rodríguez, who he has two children with, in a hotel room in Portugal on March 25, 2022.
As reported by the Sun, Georgilaya claimed Ronaldo sent her a text and invited her to his hotel room after she posed for selfies with Ronaldo and his Portuguese teammates.
She said: ‘When I read the message, I thought that if I went there we would just talk, get to know each other better, maybe I could get some more photos. I didn’t think that, in that situation, there would be sex. The fact is, it happened.’
‘It was consented on my part, but despite that I felt manipulated, by the fame and power of Cristiano Ronaldo.’
Ronaldo’s spokesperson said the claims were ‘false and defamatory’.
Georgilaya (left) claims Ronaldo cheated on his long-term girlfriend Georgina Rodríguez, who he has two children with, in a hotel room in Portugal on March 25 last year
Power couple in Saudi
Ronaldo and his long-time partner Rodriguez have been a hit on the social scene in Saudi.
Coverage of Rodriguez at the Joy Awards is said to have far outweighed that of famous actress Sofia Vergara who had been named ‘Person of the Year’. Tatler reported that Rodriguez has already amassed a huge fanbase in Saudi, with one person describing her as an ‘icon’ before she even arrived.
Ronaldo has also thrown himself into Saudi’s culture by visiting various bars and events, including Dariyah Nights – a shopping, art and music festival – with Minister of Sports Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki al-Faisal.
He attended Tommy Fury‘s boxing clash with Jake Paul and most recently Tyson Fury‘s crossover bout with Francis Ngannou.
Rapper’s Eminem and Kanye West and former UFC champion Conor McGregor were among the familiar faces at Fury vs Ngannou, but it was Ronaldo who was the star attraction of the evening alongside partner Georgina Rodriguez – even if he was seemingly booed.
Rio Ferdinand, who was also present in Riyadh for Fury vs Ngannou, talked up ex-teammate Ronaldo’s huge global influence and star power which saw the Euro 2016 winner continually displayed on the big screen over the course of the evening.
‘He’s [Ronaldo] walking into the building with some of the biggest sporting legends ever under one roof and he’s the stand-out superstar in that building,’ the former Manchester United defender told his FIVE YouTube show.
Ronaldo and Rodriguez have been a hit on the social scene ever since they moved to Saudi
Facing $1bn lawsuit
It was reported earlier this month that Ronaldo has been hit with a class-action lawsuit seeking at least $1 billion (£784,000) in damages for his role in promoting cryptocurrency-related ‘non-fungible tokens,’ or NFTs, issued by cryptocurrency exchange Binance.
Ronaldo launched his inaugural NFT ‘CR7’ collection with Binance in November of last year, ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
Cristiano Ronaldo has been named in a class-action lawsuit by users of the platform Binance
The NFTs – which had starting prices ranging from the equivalent of about $77 (£60) to $10,000 (£7,800) – featured seven animated statues depicting Ronaldo from iconic moments in his life, from bicycle-kick goals to his childhood in Portugal.
The cheapest NFT from the collection was priced at $77 when it went on sale in November last year, but a year later it was priced at around $1.
Ronaldo’s promotion of Binance was ‘deceptive and unlawful’, the lawsuit filed in federal court in the Southern District of Florida alleged.
The Portuguese superstar has yet to comment on the lawsuit.