Saudi Arabia’s Soccer Revolution: Ronaldo, Benzema, and Messi Set to Dominate the Middle East

Saudi Arabia's Soccer Revolution: Ronaldo, Benzema, and Messi Set to Dominate the Middle East

Saudi Arabian Clubs Enter New Era with Majority Ownership Stake and Lucrative Offers for Global Superstars

In a groundbreaking move that is set to reshape the landscape of soccer, Saudi Arabia’s push to attract the world’s best players has entered an exciting new phase. The country’s sovereign wealth Public Investment Fund (PIF) has taken a majority ownership stake in four of Saudi Arabia’s top clubs, including the prestigious Al Nassr, home to the legendary Cristiano Ronaldo. This move is part of a strategic “privatization project” aimed at boosting investment in sports, with a special emphasis on soccer teams, supported by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

With the PIF already having ownership of Premier League club Newcastle and managing over $600 billion of the kingdom’s assets, the Saudi clubs now enjoy a unique advantage over their European counterparts. Unlike the constraints imposed by UEFA’s spending rules, Saudi clubs have no limit on the salaries they can offer, making them a highly attractive destination for top-tier players. In addition to Al Nassr, the PIF now holds a 75% share in Al Ittihad, Al Ahli, and Al Hilal, the reigning Asian Champions League winners in 2019 and 2021.

“The transfer of the four clubs will unleash various commercial opportunities, including investment, partnership, and sponsorships across numerous sports,” announced the PIF, highlighting the vast potential for growth and development.

These recent developments effectively nationalize the top level of Saudi Arabian domestic soccer, aligning it as a state project under the Vision 2030 national development policy spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. With the aspiration of becoming a major force in world soccer, Saudi Arabia has already made significant strides. The signing of Cristiano Ronaldo by Al Nassr in January for a reported salary of $200 million per year sent shockwaves through the global football community.

Saudi Arabia’s Soccer Revolution: Ronaldo, Benzema, and Messi Set to Dominate the Middle East

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The latest initiatives indicate that more top players could soon follow in Ronaldo‘s footsteps, enticed by the allure of the Middle East. As the state-owned Saudi Press Agency reports, “The Saudi Pro League… will be supported in its ambition to be amongst the top 10 leagues in the world.” Speculation is rife that Karim Benzema, Ronaldo’s former Real Madrid teammate, will soon join him in the Saudi league, with an official announcement expected imminently. Benzema bid an emotional farewell to Real Madrid on Sunday after a remarkable 14-year tenure with the 14-time European champion.

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Meanwhile, Lionel Messi, having played his last game for Qatar-owned Paris Saint-Germain, faces a crucial decision regarding his future. Offers from Saudi Arabia and Inter Miami in Major League Soccer are on the table, although a return to Barcelona remains his preferred choice, according to Messi‘s father. The prospect of Messi donning a Saudi Arabian jersey has ignited excitement among fans worldwide.

The Saudi Pro League boasts players from over 40 different countries, and its attendances have witnessed an impressive surge of nearly 150% over the past year. As the SPA statement declares, “The privatization and ownership transfer of clubs aims to accelerate progress in a variety of sports across the kingdom, further growing participation, providing cutting-edge facilities, increasing competition, and nurturing future champions.” Moreover, Saudi Arabia is widely expected to bid for hosting or co-hosting the men’s World Cup in either 2030 or 2034, given the crown prince’s strategic alliances with FIFA president Gianni Infantino.

As Saudi Arabia’s soccer revolution gains momentum, the nation’s homegrown players are also flourishing, benefitting from the heightened interest and investment in the sport.

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