Ronaldo says Saudi league could become top five in world
Portuguese football great Cristiano Ronaldo believes the Saudi Pro League he joined this season could in time become one of the top five leagues in the world.
The Portugal skipper joined Al-Nassr in January on a contract estimated by some media reports to be worth more than €200 million ($220.16 million).
Ronaldo has played in three of the world’s top leagues with stints at Real Madrid in Spain’s La Liga, Manchester United in the English Premier League and Juventus in Italy’s Serie A.
The 38-year-old said the quality of the Saudi competition had improved even in his short time in it.
“We are much better and the Saudi league is getting better and the next year will be even better,” he told Saudi SSC channel on Tuesday.
“Step-by-step I think this league will be among the top five leagues in the world but they need time, players and infrastructure.
“But I believe that this country have amazing potential, they have amazing people and the league will be great in my opinion,” he added.
The Saudis do not lack ambition and a source told Reuters earlier this month that Riyadh club Al-Hilal had made a formal offer to secure the services of Lionel Messi, Ronaldo’s rival for the title of best player of his generation.
Ronaldo scored a stunning winner on Tuesday as Al-Nassr fought back to beat visitors Al-Shabab 3-2 and put Al-Ittihad’s Saudi Pro League title celebrations on hold.
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Rybakina pulls out of French Open due to illness – ARN News Centre
AFP / Anne-Christine Poujoulat
Fourth seed Elena Rybakina pulled out of the French Open ahead of her third-round match with Sara Sorribes Tormo due to a viral illness as the Roland Garros tournament lost one of its main contenders for the women’s title.
The Wimbledon champion said she had been unwell for the last two days and was out of breath during the warm-up before her match against Sorribes Tormo on Court Philippe Chatrier.
“I wasn’t feeling good yesterday and the day before, so I didn’t sleep two nights and had some fever,” Rybakina, who has battled pollen allergies in the past, told reporters.
“Today, I really tried during the warm-up, but I feel that the right decision is to withdraw because it’s really tough to play in this condition.
“I saw the doctor, and they said that, actually, it’s all a virus here in Paris. I guess with my allergy, my immune system just went down, and I picked up something.”
Kazakhstan’s Rybakina, 23, was among the title favourites alongside holder Iga Swiatek and Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka after winning the Rome title in the build-up to the claycourt Grand Slam.
“I’m really upset not be able to play, but I guess that’s life,” Rybakina added. “There is a lot of ups and downs. Today I just wanted to give 100%, and obviously, I’m far from being 100%.
“I was actually coming positive here, but you never know how you’re going to feel. It was unlucky for me. I’ll try to recover and do my best to be prepared for the grass season already.”
Moscow-born Rybakina said she hoped to be fully fit for the European grasscourt swing ahead of her Wimbledon title defence.
“Well, for now, the focus for sure is to get better. But the plan was to play Berlin, Eastbourne and Wimbledon,” she said.
“There are not many tournaments on grass, but it’s most important to get healthy again. That’s the plan.”
Spain’s Sorribes Tormo moves into the fourth round, where she will take on 23rd seed Ekaterina Alexandrova or 14th seed Beatriz Haddad Maia.
Sabalenka cites mental health reasons to skip French Open media duty
JULIEN DE ROSA/ AFP
Belarusian tennis star Aryna Sabalenka skipped her post-match press conference at the French Open on Friday citing mental health reasons.
The tournament organisers instead released an interview with the world number two conducted by a hand-picked group of reporters in which she said she had not felt safe at her previous press conference.
At Wednesday’s event Sabalenka was asked about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and her country’s role as a staging ground for Russian troops and weapons.
Sabalenka said that her choice not to take part in Friday’s press conference was supported by the French Open organisers.
“After my match (on Wednesday) I spoke with the media like I normally do. I know they still expect some questions that are more about the politics and not so much about my tennis,” she said.
“For many months now I have answered these questions at tournaments and been very clear in my feelings and my thoughts. These questions do not bother me after my matches.
“I know that I have to provide answers to the media on things not related to my tennis or my matches, but on Wednesday I did not feel safe in the press conference,” she said.
A French tennis federation spokesperson told Reuters Sabalenka would not be fined.
“It was to protect her,” the spokesperson said, adding that whether she attends other press conferences would be her decision.
Sabalenka will play either American Sloane Stephens or Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan in the next round.
In 2021, former world number one Naomi Osaka of Japan was fined $15,000 for skipping a post-match press conference at the French Open and threatened with tough sanctions by the board of the four Grand Slam tournaments.
She subsequently withdrew from the tournament citing mental health concerns and later said she had been battling depression and anxiety for years.
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Europa League kings Sevilla beat Roma on penalties to win seventh crown
VLADIMIR SIMICEK/ AFP
Europa League thoroughbreds Sevilla worked their magic yet again to beat AS Roma 4-1 on penalties and lift the trophy for a record-extending seventh time, handing Roma boss Jose Mourinho his first defeat in six European finals.
After an unspectacular match ended 1-1 after extra time, Sevilla ruthlessly punished the Italians in the shootout, with Gonzalo Montiel firing home the winning spot kick, just as he did for Argentina in the World Cup final against France.
The defender had missed his first effort but was handed a reprieve when Roma keeper Rui Patricio was adjudged to have come off the line too early and he made no mistake with his second, sparking jubilant celebrations.
Sevilla keeper Yassine Bounou was their hero in the shootout, saving penalties from Gianluca Mancini and Roger Ibanez while the Spaniards were flawless in their own execution, scoring their first four.
Sevilla, the undisputed kings of the Europa League, have now won all seven of the finals they have played in the competition, and are well-versed in the drama of the occasion, having seen their opponents score first in the last four finals.
It was a tense and ill-tempered affair from the start on Wednesday, with Roma defending deep with a five-man backline against Sevilla, who had almost 65 per cent possession but were kept mostly outside the Italian’s crowded box.
The match was tetchy with referee Anthony Taylor dishing out 14 yellow cards, the most ever in a Europa League game, and playing almost 30 minutes of stoppage time in total.
Paulo Dybala gave Roma the lead from a counter-attack in the 35th minute but Sevilla then took control of the game and found the equaliser thanks to an own-goal by Mancini in the 55th minute.
Sevilla dominated the match after that but Roma had the better chances from counter-attacks and set-pieces, including a Chris Smalling header that hit the crossbar in the 10th minute of added time in extra time.
It was the third consecutive Europa League final that ended in a penalty shootout.
The win means Sevilla will compete in next season’s Champions League despite finishing outside the top four in the La Liga.
Mourinho had never lost a European final before Wednesday, having last year led Roma to the inaugural Europa Conference League title, becoming the first coach to win all the European trophies.
Losing was clearly a painful experience for the Portuguese who handed his runners-up medal to a fan in the stand after the presentation.
“That’s what I did, I don’t want silver medals. I don’t keep silver medals, so I gave it away,” he told Movistar.
It was written in the stars. ✨
7️⃣ times, @EuropaLeague 𝑪𝑯𝑨𝑴𝑷𝑰𝑶𝑵𝑺. ⚪️🔴
— Sevilla FC (@SevillaFC_ENG) May 31, 2023