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Furor erupts over Ronaldo's apparent obscene taunt in Saudi league match

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring his side's second goal playing for a combined XI of Saudi Arabian teams Al Nassr and PSG during a friendly soccer match, at the King Saud University Stadium, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023.  (Hussein Malla / AP Photo) Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring his side's second goal playing for a combined XI of Saudi Arabian teams Al Nassr and PSG during a friendly soccer match, at the King Saud University Stadium, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023. (Hussein Malla / AP Photo)
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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -

Cristiano Ronaldo has come under heavy criticism after seemingly making an offensive gesture following Al Nassr’s 3-2 victory over Al Shabab in a Saudi Pro League match on Sunday.

Footage posted on social media appeared to show the five-time Ballon d’Or winner cupping his ear and repeatedly thrusting his hand forward near his pelvis, seemingly aimed at rival Al Shabab supporters, after the match.

In the background, chants of “Messi” could be heard. Argentina star Lionel Messi is Ronaldo’s longstanding soccer rival.

While the incident was not captured by television cameras, criticism of the 39-year-old Portugal striker has been swift and local media reports say that the Saudi football federation (SAFF) has opened an investigation.

He could face a suspension, potentially jeopardizing his availability for Al Nassr's next match — against Al-Hazem on Thursday.

Ronaldo, who completed a lucrative move to the Riyadh-based club in December 2022, has a league-leading 22 goals this season. His latest came against Al Shabab when he opened the scoring with a first-half penalty before Brazilian Talisca’s late double — including a goal four minutes from time — secured the win for Al Nassr.

Al Nassr trails fellow big-spending rival Al Hilal by four points, having played a game more.

Al Nassr is also in contention for the Asian Champions League — a tournament it has never won — and will play Al-Ain of the United Arab Emirates in the quarterfinals next month.

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