Ronaldo CeferinGetty

Cristiano Ronaldo Champions League return quashed! UEFA president rules out prospect of Saudi clubs playing in European competitions

  • Saudi clubs cannot join Champions League
  • UEFA president says 'only European teams' allowed
  • Ceferin also rules out finals in the USA

WHAT HAPPENED? UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has definitively ruled out the prospect of Saudi Arabian sides playing in its competitions, dismissing previous media reports that had suggested there was a chance Ronaldo's Al-Nassr or other Saudi Pro League teams could gain a wildcard entry to the Champions League. The SPL's chief operating officer Carlo Nohra had added weight to the prospect of Saudi sides entering Europe's elite competition by declaring: “We are trying to be different. So any change or improvement that can be introduced to the league will be welcome.”

WHAT THEY SAID: "A media outlet talked about this without even asking us," Ceferin told L'Equipe. "Only European clubs can participate in the Champions League, Europa League and Conference League." The UEFA president also said there was no chance of the Champions League final being played in the United States. "Only European federations can apply [to host] a final, not even clubs. We would have to change all our rules, and we don't want that," he added.

THE BIGGER PICTURE: Ceferin said he was not worried that Saudi football could compete with European football despite big-name stars such as Ronaldo, Neymar, Ruben Neves, Sadio Mane and N'Golo Kante, among others, moving to the Gulf state this year.

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"It's not a threat, we saw a similar approach in China, which bought players at the end of their careers by offering them a lot of money," Ceferin added. "Chinese football didn't develop and didn't qualify for the World Cup afterwards. There are players at the end of their careers and others who aren't ambitious enough to aspire to the 'top' competitions. As far as I know, [Kylian] Mbappe and [Erling] Haaland don't dream of Saudi Arabia. I don't believe that the best players at the pinnacle of their careers would go to Saudi Arabia. When people talk to me about the players who went there, nobody knows where they're playing."


Aleksander Ceferin Président UEFAGetty ImagesCristiano Ronaldo Champions League Real MadridGettyCristiano Ronaldo Al-Nassr 2023-24Getty Images

WHAT NEXT? The Champions League group stage draw is being held on Thursday at 5pm BST.