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Ronaldo's Al Nassr Grapples with AFC Line-up Limitations.

Roger Hampel

Fot: AlNassr via Instagram

Saudi Arabia's summer transfer splurge, crowned by Cristiano Ronaldo's transfer to Al Nassr, faces an unforeseen challenge. Al Nassr is set to clash with Dubai's Shabab Al Ahli in a decisive Asian Champions League (AFC) playoff match on August 22.

However, the real obstacle comes in the form of the AFC's player nationality regulations. Teams can include a maximum of six foreign players in their squad: five from outside Asia and one from an AFC member country. While Al Nassr has several international talents, this rule mandates a tough selection.

Head coach Luís Castro, facing this selection puzzle, has reportedly chosen Cristiano Ronaldo, Sadio Mané, Seko Fofana, Marcelo Brozovic, and Alex Telles for the crucial playoff. This decision has led to the exclusion of Brazilian standout Talisca, causing ripples of dissent within the team's camp. A vital component of the Al Nassr squad since 2021, this decision casts doubt on Talisca's future with the club. Recent reports suggest a potential European return with Besiktas showing keen interest.

Other Saudi teams are also grappling with this selection dilemma. Al Hilal, boasting stars like Neymar and Milinkovic-Savic, and Al Ittihad, home to Benzema and Kanté, will face similar tough decisions in the tournament's group stage.

It's worth noting that the AFC is considering adjusting this rule for the upcoming super-Champions League in 2024-25, aiming to provide more flexibility to clubs based on local competition nuances.


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