Cristiano Ronaldo could reunite with Zinedine Zidane or Jose Mourinho in Saudi Arabia at AlNassr

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This week we had tons of soccer goodness in the UEFA Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League and there is still a loaded weekend of European league action to come, and of course the launch of CBS Sports Golazo Network, your new 24/7 streaming soccer network to stay up to date on all the lates. There’s plenty to talk about leading into this weekend and our Golazo Starting XI newsletter has you covered as we check out teams in Saudi Arabia throwing around yet more money, a major Manchester United meltdown and more. I am Jonathan Johnson, here bringing you the very latest.

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Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr eye big coaching splash

CBS Sports Golazo

Since Cristiano Ronaldo moved to Al-Nassr at the start of 2023, the Roshn Saudi League has gotten more attention than ever before and a number of other clubs have been linked with ambitious moves for eye-watering amounts of money. The headliner is, of course, Al-Hilal’s bid for Lionel Messi who will soon be a free agent if his Paris Saint-Germain contract runs down until this summer. Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr are now looking for a new boss after Rudi Garcia was dismissed and a source close to the club has told CBS Sports’ James Benge that they are targeting Zinedine Zidane or Jose Mourinho to replace the Frenchman. Obviously these are names that bring not only coaching talent, but are designed to shine a light on Saudi Arabia’s domestic league and start the ball rolling to attract even more top-level talent in the future.

  • Benge: “With ambitions to grow the profile of the Saudi league extending to the highest levels of government in the kingdom, Al-Nassr are aiming to secure a marquee head coach to go alongside the highest scorer in men’s international football. A source close to the club indicated that an initial verbal offer has been made to Zidane, who has been out of work since departing Real Madrid for a second time in 2021. Ronaldo is understood to be involved in those conversations.”

Garcia’s compatriot and the Portuguese tactician are both big names in the managerial world and both know star man Ronaldo extremely well and the 38-year-old has played a role in Al-Nassr drawing up their shortlist for the position. Nobody can doubt the ambition being shown by the Saudi game to establish itself as a new destination for top name talent and this summer could mark a turning point in its development if the likes of a Zidane or Mourinho would join Ronaldo in Riyadh. 

However, there is a big difference between landing players like Ronaldo and potentially Messi and those in their prime with years more to offer at the very top level. Even Zidane and Mourinho themselves have been linked with international roles as much as club positions of late. As impressive as their names are, there is no guarantee that younger players that the Roshn Saudi League could grow around beyond the short-term would follow. The Champions League soccer remains the holy grail for most players and coaches.

Ronaldo being joined by an established winner like a Mourinho would obviously bring much prestige to the league, but both have won so much in the game already that any potential stint in Saudi would not be judged upon what could be won in terms of silverware. If these big names could be used to create a pathway for younger players and bosses to come to Saudi Arabia while they still have plenty to offer in Europe, that would be the real watershed moment for these ambitious Saudi clubs. That could happen eventually, but it’s going to take more than spending big on a big name manager to coach a star winding down their career to make it happen.

James Benge on Al-Nassr’s ambitious coaching search.

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One step forward and two steps back for Man U


Manchester United are facing a late season panic period after blowing a two goal lead by conceding own goals twice after the 80th minute in a 2-2 home draw with Sevilla in the Europa League quarterfinals. That follows on the heels of a Premier League loss to Newcastle United and a number of injuries for Erik ten Hag to deal with. On top of the 7-0 thrashing at the hands of Liverpool, there have been some tough moments since the Red Devils won the League Cup back in February.

Generally speaking, Ten Hag has made progress with this United side in difficult conditions as talk of the club’s ownership changing hands rumbles on. However, a testing trip to Seville to face the UEL specialists next week and a tough FA Cup semifinal against Brighton and Hove Albion could trip the Dutch tactician and his players up further with the race for a top four finish tight at present.

And those injuries. First it was in attack where Marcus Rashford was ruled out for several games, but now the defense is the more pressing issue with both Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez forced off the field on Thursday. They join Luke Shaw, the left back who has deputized as a backup central defender when needed, on the sideline.

Ten Hag’s Old Trafford job is not in danger, but potentially losing out in both the Europa League and the FA Cup would not only put major pressure on finishing in the top four, but also risk the end of this campaign feeling underwhelming when it has generally been better than many hoped so far. If they do struggle down the stretch, it will be important for management to keep focused on what matters, United of old might keep raising their head from time to time, but Ten Hag generally is doing well despite any possible disappointments to come.

Chuck Booth on United’s Sevilla setback.

And now let’s get to some links:

🔗 When Martinez went down for United it was his Argentina teammates on Sevilla who helped carry him off the field.
🔗 On CBS Sports Golazo Network on Friday, the Morning Footy team broke down who was at fault for all these United injuries.
🔗 Me on the discrimination scandal engulfing PSG head coach Christophe Galtier from his Nice spell.
🔗 Francesco Porzio on Juventus’ Wojciech Szczesny and his chest pain scare.
🔗 Sandra Herrera has you covered for your NWSL week three needs.
🔗 Booth on New York Red Bulls’ Dante Vanzeir being suspended for racist language.
🔗 Benge hits on Chelsea’s entirely predictable loss to Real Madrid in midweek.
🔗 On the Champions League post-match show, Thierry Henry blasted Chelsea’s lack of attacking bite.
🔗 Napoli and Luciano Spalletti might have reason for concern after their loss to Milan, writes Porzio.
🔗 House of Champions: The team looks back over the Champions League action.
🔗And Fabrizio Romano stops by the show to hit the latest on Jude Bellingham and all the transfer news.
🔗 Attacking Third: Sandra and Lisa preview the action as NWSL returns after the international break
🔗 In Soccer We Trust: The crew breaks down the lineup for the upcoming friendly against Mexico
🔗 And remember, all of your soccer needs — from NWSL to Champions League to Serie A and so much more — are available on Paramount+. 📺 You can try one month free by using the code: NWSL2023.

💵 Best bets

All odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook and all times U.S./Eastern. SportsLine has you covered with this weekend’s best bets.

  • Premier League: Aston Villa vs. Newcastle, Saturday, 7:30 a.m.
    💰 THE PICK: Villa (+260) — Few EPL teams are in better form than Unai Emery’s men at present, but they come up against Eddie Howe’s Magpies on Saturday in a game with potentially big implications for the top four race. Newcastle at +110 is not bad given that many expect Villa’s form to drop off any game now, but the Villans at +230 for the draw should not be sniffed at given their form, but let’s be brave and take an outright win. Ollie Watkins will be looking to continue his run of nine goals and an assist from his last 11 Premier League outings.
  • Ligue 1: PSG vs. Lens, Saturday, 3:00 p.m.
    💰 THE PICK: Draw (+300) — France’s top two meet on Saturday with PSG fighting off late season pressure at the Championnat summit as well as controversy affecting head coach Christophe Galtier. Franck Haise’s impressive Lens side are second in the table and need to win to cut Les Parisiens’ lead to just three points and they have a good record of late. Marco Verratti-less PSG were fortunate to win 2-0 in Nice last week and Lens to avoid defeat here could pay out nicely.
  • Serie A: Sassuolo vs. Juventus, Sunday, 12:00 p.m.
    💰 THE PICK: Draw (+240) — If you are feeling brave, you could go for the hosts at +270 but even Juve not to win looks good at +240 when you consider that Sassuolo are often very difficult to beat for Calcio’s big boys on home turf. Sandwiched between two tricky games with Sporting CP in the Europa League, it would not be a huge surprise to see Juve follow last week’s loss to Lazio with a draw here.

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