Some of the biggest names in sports are being offered enormous salaries if they join Saudi Arabia’s top clubs as part of an organized move funded by the country’s Public Investment Fund. Some of the most well-known soccer players in the world are being sought out by Saudi Arabia to play in its national league alongside Cristiano Ronaldo.
In order to secure the deals, it is relying on money, the one resource it can offer more than any of its rival leagues. The proposal appears to be a centrally managed attempt, supported by the highest levels in Saudi Arabia and funded by the kingdom’s massive sovereign wealth fund, to transform the country’s domestic league, into a destination for top talent. Its objective is analogous to the Saudi-financed attempt to dominate golf through the new LIV series.
Saudi teams are already approaching sportsmen who are willing to relocate to the nation and offering some of the highest annual salaries in sports history. The agreements might cost more than 1 billion US dollars in compensation for just 20 foreign players. The route has been paved by Cristiano Ronaldo as he signed a contract with the Saudi club Al-Nassr, reportedly worth $200 million annually. Al-Nassr nearly missed winning the league title but Ronaldo’s mere presence was a victory because it guaranteed unparalleled focus on the nation’s top level, the Saudi Premier League.
Leaks about lavish contracts for famous footballers have increased in recent weeks. For example, Lionel Messi, who led Argentina to the World Cup title in December, is rumored to have been enticed by a deal even richer than Cristiano Ronaldo’s Saudi deal, and French striker Karim Benzema, the current world player of the year, is said to have agreed to leave Real Madrid for a nine-figure deal to play in Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi government’s Vision 2030 economic diversification plan, which aims to establish new businesses and generate employment, includes sports as one of its tenets, and Public Investment Fund is at the center of that program. According to Saudi Press Agency, enterprises, and development organizations are permitted to invest in and acquire control of clubs under the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s privatization plan, which is primarily aimed at football clubs.