Derby County hero aims cheeky dig at Cristiano Ronaldo over failed MLS transfer

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Johnny Russell fired a dig at Cristiano Ronaldo
Johnny Russell fired a dig at Cristiano Ronaldo

Former Derby County star Johnny Russell has claimed that Cristiano Ronaldo would've had to pay for his shirt number if he was to join Sporting Kansas City this January.

Ronaldo finally has a new home after leaving Manchester United, as the 37-year-old has joined Saudi Arabian side Al Nassr on a two-and-a-half year deal. The Portuguese star was linked with moves all over the globe, but has become the highest paid player in history as he's set to pocket £177million a year - once commercial agreements are included.

The striker reportedly had offers from elsewhere in Europe, and was also heavily linked with a move to the United States, with Kansas City being one of the interested parties. However, Kansas City captain Johnny Russell is the current occupant of Ronaldo's iconic no.7 shirt, and has joked that the five-time Ballon d'Or winner would've had to pay him for it.

Major League Soccer continues to expand and grow, and after Gareth Bale joined Los Angeles FC after leaving Real Madrid, the league proved to the world that they have the ability to attract big stars. Greats such as David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Kaka have all played in MLS, and Ronaldo was the latest big name to be linked this winter.

However, Ronaldo decided to move to Saudi Arabia and become the face of the Saudi-Pro League. Ronaldo will of course be wearing the no.7 shirt, but it may not have been that simple if he signed for Kansas City instead.

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Russell has become a club hero in Kansas since signing from Derby in 2018, and the 32-year-old has scored 40 MLS goals in 113 appearances. He is the club captain, and proudly wears the no.7 jersey for the MLS side.

Derby County hero aims cheeky dig at Cristiano Ronaldo over failed MLS transferJohnny Russell is no.7 for Kansas City

Of course, if any MLS team had the option of signing Ronaldo, it's likely they'd do all they can to allocate him his iconic number, not just to keep him happy but also from a brands perspective. But Russell told reporters that Ronaldo would've had to pay him in order to take the number away.

When Ronaldo returned to United in 2021, fans wondered which number he would take as Edinson Cavani held the no.7 at that time. Under Premier League rules, once a player has been allocated a number for the season, it cannot be changed.

However, this was Ronaldo, and league officials sanctioned a special dispensation to allow Cavani to change jerseys and the Portuguese star got his way once more and took the no.7. "I would like to say a huge thank you to Edi for this incredible gesture," Ronaldo said at the time.

Derby County hero aims cheeky dig at Cristiano Ronaldo over failed MLS transferEdinson Cavani surrendered his no.7 when Cristiano Ronaldo joined United (Getty Images)

Ronaldo's time at United ended dramatically, as an unsanctioned interview with Piers Morgan aired right after the Premier League season paused for the 2022 World Cup. That's all behind Ronaldo now and he and United have parted ways, and the 37-year-old has claimed he is 'proud' to join Al Nassr.

"I’m so proud to make this big decision in my life. In Europe my work is done. I won everything and played for the most important clubs in Europe. This is a new challenge," Ronaldo said.

"I’m a unique player. I beat all the records there. I want to beat a few records here. This contract is unique but I’m a unique player, so for me it’s normal. I really don’t worry about what people say.

"I had many opportunities in Europe, Brazil, Australia, America, Portugal, many clubs tried to sign me. I gave my word to this club. I want to give a different vision of this country and football. This is why I took this opportunity."

Joseph McBride

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