Cristiano Ronaldo must serve two-match ban before Al-Nassr debut … – Arab News

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RIYADH: Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo still needs to serve a two-match English Football Association ban before making his Al-Nassr debut, an official at the Saudi club said Friday.
Ronaldo was given a the ban in November for hitting a mobile phone out of a teenage fan’s hand after Manchester United, his club at the time, lost to Everton in the Premier League.
“The ban is applicable after he is officially registered,” another Al-Nassr official said.
Al-Nassr had not yet registered Ronaldo due to a foreign player quota, but his registration was set to be completed on Friday, sources close to the club said.
Ronaldo, whose deal is worth an estimated 200 million euros to June 2025, is Al Nassr’s ninth foreign player — one more than the eight allowed by Saudi football authorities.
The Portuguese superstar was unveiled to fireworks and deafening cheers from a capacity crowd at a ceremony at the club’s home stadium on Tuesday.
Al-Nassr’s first game since Ronaldo’s arrival was held on Friday at Mrsool Park, in which the home team beat Al-Tai 2-0, after the match had been postponed due to heavy rains in Riyadh.
* With AFP
JEDDAH: Jordan’s 20-year-old international tennis player Abdullah Shelbayh has urged Arab spectators to come and cheer him on as he competes in Jeddah’s Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM next week.
Having just turned 20 on Nov. 16, Shelbayh will be one of eight players to compete in the under-21 event at the Next Gen ATP Finals from Nov. 28-Dec. 2, a media statement said on Saturday.
Competing against the elite from his worldwide peer group in Saudi Arabia will be “a special moment” for Shelbayh, who alongside stars of the future Arthur Fils, Dominic Stricker, Luca Van Assche, Flavio Cobolli, Alex Michelsen, Hamad Medjedovi and Luca Nardi, will battle it out for global glory and a $514,000 top prize.
Arab support will “mean the world” to Shelbayh, who is urging as many spectators as possible to attend this year’s event at King Abdullah Sports City.
“In the tournament, I think I’ll need the support from the Arab world during the week,” says the 20-year-old, who reached the Wimbledon Junior doubles final in 2021.
“I’ll be depending on them, honestly. It’ll be very special for me to see Arab fans watch me play there.”
“In most countries in the Arab world, tennis is not as developed a sport,” said Shelbayh.
“But for me as a Jordanian, as an Arab as well, to be playing in such a special event is an honor. It’s a great way for me to show to the world — the Arab world and the whole world — that we can have talent and special players from our region.”
Born in Amman, Shelbayh is ranked 187th in the world by ATP, making him by far the region’s highest ranked male — as well as the first Jordanian tennis player to achieve an ATP world ranking.
The success of Tunisian star Ons Jabeur — the former world No.2 and three-time Grand Slam finalist who is the highest ranked Arab tennis player in both WTA and ATP rankings history — has sparked interest in tennis in the region.
Shelbayh, who describes Jabeur as having done “wonders” for tennis in the Arab world, hopes he can prove just as, or even more, inspirational as he embarks on his professional career.
“I hope I will be inspiring many young kids from the Arab world to play this sport,” said the Jordanian, who, after moving from his homeland aged 14, trained at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Spain. He then spent a year playing at the University of Florida before turning professional.
Established in 2017, previous tournaments took place in Milan before an agreement was sealed for Jeddah to host the Next Gen ATP Finals from at least 2023 to 2027.
LUTON, England: Jacob Brown scored an 83rd-minute winner as Luton beat Crystal Palace 2-1 in the Premier League on Saturday.
It was only Luton’s second win in 13 games in English soccer’s top division this season after securing promotion last term. The result saw them move four points clear of the relegation zone.
Teden Mengi fired Luton ahead in the 72nd minute at Kenilworth Road, but Michael Olize quickly evened the score in the 74th.
Brown’s goal ended a six-game winless streak for Rob Edwards’ team since their only other top flight victory against Everton in September.
Jefferson Lerma came close to rescuing a point for Palace with a header that hit the post 13 minutes into stoppage time.
The win reflects Luton’s improving form, having picked up five points in their last five games, including a 1-1 draw with Liverpool earlier this month.
Defeat for 13th-place Palace means the London club have only won one of their last six games.
ABU DHABI: Max Verstappen took pole position for the season-ending Abu Grand Prix on Saturday and will look to finish a crushingly dominant year with a 19th win.
Victory on Sunday would take the Red Bull driver onto 54 career wins, past former Red Bull star Sebastian Vettel and into third place all time.
“It’s been a very special season and we’ve been enjoying it a lot,” Verstappen said. “Very proud of what we have achieved.”
The three-time F1 champion’s 12th pole of the season took him to 32 overall. He starts the race ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in second place and McLaren’s Oscar Piastri in third.
“Never bet against me,” Verstappen said afterward, jokingly referring to a comment made by his Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.
Horner informed Verstappen that he had won a bet for 500 euros ($547) made with Red Bull boss Helmut Marko as to where Verstappen would qualify.
“You’ve just won me 500 euros,” Horner told Verstappen over radio when he crossed the line.
With a few minutes left, Verstappen led from McLaren’s Lando Norris and Piastri under floodlights at the Yas Marina circuit.
Norris slid late while pushing too hard on his last timed lap and Piastri moved ahead of him, while Leclerc jumped up the leaderboard with an excellent lap to place .14 seconds behind Verstappen.
“Everything felt good, I’m very happy with that lap because I didn’t expect to be on the front row,” Leclerc said. “It’s a good surprise.”
Mercedes driver George Russell qualified in fourth ahead of Norris with AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda in sixth and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso seventh. Nico Hulkenberg (Haas), Sergio Perez (Red Bull) and Pierre Gasly (Alpine) completed the top 10.
It was a bad session for Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton (11th) and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. (16th).
Sainz failed to make it into the second part of qualifying — known as Q2 — and complained of too much traffic near the end of Q1 with several drivers coming out of their garages late.
Still, for a leading driver — Sainz is the only driver other than Verstappen or Perez to win a race this season — it was a poor performance after he crashed early in Friday’s second practice session. Potentially costly, too, with second place in the constructors’ championship at stake.
Heading into Sunday’s race, Mercedes was in second and held a four-point lead over Ferrari. Teams get more money at the end of the season the higher they finish.
“I hope tomorrow goes well,” Leclerc said. “It is the target to beat Mercedes in the constructors’ championship. That is all that matters this weekend.”
But Mercedes is struggling for form, and Hamilton was knocked out of Q2. The seven-time F1 champion said there was “something not right with this car” and faces the strong likelihood of a second straight season without a win.
Williams driver Logan Sargeant goes from last on the grid with his F1 future still uncertain. The American has only one point this season with a best result of 10th place at the United States GP last month.
Earlier Saturday, Russell topped the third and final practice session ahead of Norris and Piastri with Verstappen in sixth.
“What a turnaround because in practice it was not looking good,” Verstappen said. “Around here on the tires you have little slides, it can cost you a lot of lap time and that is what was happening in practice. But then in qualifying it was a bit more connected.”
When his form picked up, Horner was happy to win a bet in a season where Red Bull has lost only one race out of 21.
Piastri, meanwhile, was pleased to bounce back from a difficult qualifying session last weekend at the Las Vegas GP. He started from 18th and finished the race in 10th.
“The car is very quick this weekend,” the 22-year-old Australian said. “Happy to be back in the top three.”
BERLIN: Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Granit Xhaka said on Saturday “it is a dream” to play under Xabi Alonso after a 3-0 win at Werder Bremen helped his team back to the top of the Bundesliga.
The victory — Leverkusen’s 17th in 18 fixtures this season — reestablished their two-point lead over second-placed Bayern Munich.
Xhaka joined Leverkusen in the close-season from Premier League side Arsenal, where he played under Alonso’s childhood friend Mikel Arteta.
“It’s a dream for me to play under Xabi Alonso, he was a world-class player in the same position as me — I played against him myself,” Xhaka told Sky Germany.
“He gives me things that I can take…
“We have a great team, a great coach and a great mentality.
“We work hard daily and you can see the results on the ground.”
Xhaka is one of several summer signings to impress this season, along with Alex Grimaldo, who scored in the win over Bremen, Victor Boniface and Jonas Hofmann.
Leverkusen’s blistering start has some talking of a potential maiden Bundesliga title, but Xhaka was careful not to look too far into the future.
“Nothing is a foregone conclusion. We need to continue to work and see where we end up,” he said.
“In football, anything is possible.
“We must continue to keep our feet on the ground, and we will see what will happen.”
ABU DHABI: Alex Albon is well aware that Yas Marina Circuit has not been a happy hunting ground for Williams, but the Thai-British driver is hoping his team can finish the season on a high and secure seventh place in the constructors’ championship this weekend.
A Williams car has not scored points in Abu Dhabi since Felipe Massa finished 10th in 2017, but Albon and his teammate Logan Sargeant are keen to end that streak and hold off AlphaTauri, who are seven points behind in the standings.
Seventh would be Williams’ highest finish in the championship since 2017 — when they placed fifth — and Albon, who has scored points on seven occasions this season, believes his team have been “one of the surprises” of 2023.
“I think I can speak for Logan and the whole team, we’re all burnt out massively. We’ve obviously just come from Vegas, but we’ve had a great season,” Albon said at a Q&A session organized by team sponsors Jumeirah ahead of the race weekend.
“For Williams, historically, we’ve had a few years now where we haven’t been where we want to be. We’ve been more towards the back of the field. But this season we’ve had some great results, we’ve been able to get some top 10s. I think we’ve been one of the surprises of the year, which has been a lot of fun.”
Albon’s best performances of the campaign were seventh-place finishes in Canada and Monza, while F1 rookie Sargeant became the first American driver to score a point since Michael Andretti in 1993, thanks to his 10th place showing in Austin.
“It’s been a great morale boost for everyone back in the UK, back where the team is. We’re on the up, we’re fully focused there into next year, but I think, at least from what I’ve seen, from speaking to people in the team, it’s been maybe the strongest (season) they’ve had in six or seven years. Things are going really well,” said Albon.
Sargeant is the only driver on the grid yet to secure a seat for next year but the 22-year-old does not sound too worried about his chances. He had the best qualifying result of his career last weekend in Las Vegas, and started the race in sixth place.
“We need to try and have a good weekend and beat AlphaTauri, which is the last goal of the season. I believe we both want to end out pretty strong, so hopefully we have a good weekend,” said Sargeant.
“Realistically, it’s not going to be the best track for us, however we have also thought that in the past and we’ve gone okay.
“We’re always optimistic that it’ll play in our favor, but it’s one of those things where you’re never completely sure until you put the car on the ground. Some weekends when you don’t expect it to be good it surprises you, and some weekends you expect it to be better and it’s not really there. You have to play it by ear and take it as it comes.”

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