Could Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr really play in next season’s Champions League? Obviously not, but the Daily Star aren’t about to let that kind of inconvenient fact stop them.
How Journalism Works In 2023, Part 383727781
Our story begins on Sunday morning, when a ‘Saudi journalist’ with the handle Alharbi_44 tweets in Arabic that (with thanks to Google translate):
‘The European Union intends to extend an invitation to Al-Nassr Saudi Club to participate in the 2024 European Champions League, “being one of the three most famous clubs in football” and because Al-Nassr has great and great popularity on the European continent.’
Now a quick glance through Alharbi_44’s Twitter/X/whatever reveals a ‘journalist’ who doesn’t appear to have ever posted a link to any of his work, which is certainly unusual. His blockbuster claim about Cristiano Ronaldo returning to Champions League action with Al-Nassr is made solely in a tweet.
There is no article accompanying what is a frankly astonishing scoop for a previously unknown hack. He’s got a blue tick, because of course he has. But there is zero evidence from his social media of him being anything other than a Ronaldo fan boy and online fantasist.
His claim is, demonstrably, absolute bollocks.
Enter Sport Bible two days later with absolutely zero dignity.
UEFA ‘considering inviting’ Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al Nassr to Champions League next season
They’re not even quoting our new journalist friend here. If you’re wondering who they’re quoting there, it’s themselves. Here’s the intro to this steaming pile of absolute dung.
UEFA are considering inviting Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al Nassr to the Champions League next season, reports in Saudi Arabia have claimed.
At least we now get to ‘reports in Saudi Arabia have claimed’. Before, eventually, four paragraphs in, we get as far as ‘one Twitter rando has claimed’. We’re quoting ourselves there.
While the five-time Ballon d’Or winner has been in electric form this term, his performances have been away from the glare of a large contingent of European supporters.
That may not be the case for long, however. According to Saudi journalist AlHarbi44 on X, formally (sic) Twitter, UEFA are considering inviting Al Nassr to the 2024/2025 edition of the Champions League.
As per the journalist, the reasoning for this is that Al Nassr are considered among the ‘three most famous clubs in the world’ and have ‘great popularity’ among European supporters.
Indeed, Ronaldo is arguably the most impressive performer in Champions League history and would welcome Al Nassr’s involvement in the competition.
Maybe he would welcome it, maybe he wouldn’t given the obvious absurdity of it. But it’s moot: it’s not going to happen and you know it’s not going to happen. There follows a load of guff about the new Champions League format for next season to help create the illusion that this might be something of a goer with the extra places now available potentially just being handed over to the team that finishes second in the Saudi Pro League.
And now this morning, we have this from the Daily Star. It’s just so disappointing from such an august organ to see it reduced to this kind of cheap hackery.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al Nassr to be ‘invited into Champions League’, Saudi reports claim
It goes on.
UEFA are reportedly now considering ‘inviting’ Cristiano Ronaldo’s Saudi Pro League side Al-Nassr to play in the Champions League next season.
No, they’re not.
However, in a bizarre turn of events, it’s said that Ronaldo could return on Tuesday and Wednesday night TV sets and be offered the chance to add to his record 141 tournament goals again next season – despite playing in the Middle East.
Bizarre is one word for it, yes.
That’s because Saudi journalist AlHarbi44 claimed on Twitter that UEFA intends to invite Al-Nassr to participate in the Champions League in 2024. He cited it is apparently due to the 1995 AFC Champions League runners-up being considered as ‘one of the three most famous clubs in football’, and due to Al-Nassr having ‘great popularity’ in Europe.
It’s unclear whether this apparent invite would be extended to clubs beyond Al-Nassr or whether it could be offered to the team who win the Saudi Pro League – with current table-topper Al-Hilal four points clear of Ronaldo, Sadio Mane, Aymeric Laporte and Co at the top.
Unclear. Good grief. It’s clear this apparent invite is entirely fictitious. But you got your click.
Howard Webb has declared that Newcastle’s controversial winner against Arsenal was correctly awarded, which is good news. This, we’re sure, will now be the end of the matter and Mikel Arteta is surely readying his apology as we speak while every Arsenal fan online simply declares ‘fair enough’ and moves on.
The released VAR audio is fairly bland. Certainly nothing in there to match the meme-mine that was the Tottenham-Liverpool Luis Diaz offside snafu. There’s a brief moment of excitement where everyone appears to momentarily forget the offside law but that gets quickly sorted out.
Obviously, that’s terrible news if you want to keep the VAR bandwagon rolling on. And, as it’s international week, everyone wants to keep the VAR bandwagon rolling on. Especially The Sun, who excitedly announce ‘Gabriel blasted in VAR audio’. Something we must admit we missed.
The Sun are quite clear that a blast has occurred, though. Look, they say it again in the intro:
Arsenal defender Gabriel’s claim of being fouled during the Newcastle loss has been blasted in the released VAR audio.
What was this blast from the VAR? “I don’t see anything of a push that warrants him flying forward like that.”
BLASTED. He may never get back to his feet from that one.
For your consideration
Slightly odd pair of paragraphs in the Mirror’s version of the same tale.
Now new audio released as part of the Mic’d Up programme, has revealed that the officiating team did not even consider the Arsenal star being fouled and elected not to intervene.
During assessment of the incident, the VAR said: ‘I don’t see a specific foul on Gabriel. I see two hands on his back but I don’t see anything of a push that warrants him flying forward like that.’
They considered it. And decided it wasn’t a foul.
Slightly naughty bit of online headline action with that one as well from the Mirror: ‘VAR audio shows what officials really thought of Arsenal protests vs Newcastle’
There’s definitely an air here that the VAR lads have talked directly about ‘Arsenal protests’ and the ‘really thought’ suggests something scathing. All it actually means is that the VAR studied the evidence and disagreed with Arsenal’s on-field protestations that the goal should have been disallowed. Which we already knew.
Rio Ferdinand is still angry that Manchester United didn’t sign Harry Kane, who is instead busy scoring all of the goals for Bayern Munich after his big-money move from Spurs. We’ve even carried his quotes for you here on this formerly-decent site.
‘His third hat-trick!’ Ferdinand exclaimed on his Vibe with FIVE YouTube channel.
‘Every time I see Harry Kane’s name come up with the match ball and a hat-trick, I puke inside my mouth.
‘I’m thinking, why – why?! – did we not go and get him?’
Ferdinand’s latest whine on United’s failure to sign Kane certainly contains some vivid imagery, but still a total, point-blank unwillingness to accept the obvious and known reason why United didn’t sign him. ‘Why – why?! – did we not go and get him?’
You know why, Rio. We all know why. Because he was under contract and Spurs would not consider selling him to a Premier League rival, at least not at the (still massive) price they sold him to Bayern. United certainly needed Kane. They would certainly be better with Kane. But they didn’t sign him because they couldn’t sign him and that really is all there is to it.
The Mirror have engaged full panic mode over England’s Euro qualifier double-header this week with Gareth Southgate’s squad hit by five – sorry, ‘FIVE’ – withdrawals ‘plus late arrivals as spate of stars miss training’. We’re told Southgate’s squad has been ‘plagued by injuries and off-field matters’.
Gareth Southgate faces slim pickings ahead of England’s latest double-header after FIVE players withdrew from the squad and many others missed training on Tuesday.
Despite flying back to England and arriving at St George’s Park, Real Madrid sensation Jude Bellingham has pulled out alongside Chelsea defender Levi Colwill. The duo join James Maddison, Callum Wilson and Lewis Dunk, who all were forced to withdraw over the weekend. That allowed youngsters Cole Palmer and Rico Lewis to be called up as well as Aston Villa centre-back Ezri Konsa, but Southgate’s problems didn’t end there.
Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford and Manchester City midfielder Kalvin Phillips will both arrive later this week due to what the FA say are ‘personal matters.’ Meanwhile, Harry Maguire, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Conor Gallagher all missed training on Tuesday, scuppering Southgate’s preparations ahead of Friday’s Euro 2024 qualifier against Malta.
Plagued. Slim pickings. Problems. Scuppering. Polite yet apparently necessary reminder that England have already qualified.