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Cristiano Ronaldo is being offered $200M a YEAR to play in Saudi Arabia

Cristiano Ronaldo is right in the middle of playing for Portugal in the World Cup where he’ll meet Switzerland on Tuesday, but while he’s in Qatar there’s news emerging on his potential next club. Details right now are shaky, but if Ronaldo wants to get quite literally the biggest bag in sports history, his future might not be on a UEFA Champion’s League team — but rather a Saudi Arabian team almost nobody has ever heard of.

The reported contract offer from Al-Nassr would pay Ronaldo $500M over the next 2.5 years. It would unquestionably be the highest per-year deal in the history of soccer, destroying the $168M per-season that Lionel Messi got from FC Barcelona at the height of his dominance.

What makes the Ronaldo contract a little more complicated is that it appears the expectation isn’t just for Ronaldo to play, but become the face of soccer in Saudi Arabia — and with it numerous licensing agreements. More specifically: Al-Nassr wants part of Ronaldo’s contracted job to be sportswashing.

We’ve discussed this topic a lot, especially as it applies to LIV Golf, but essentially this is a mandated campaign by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to shift focus away from its horrific human rights record and ongoing violations, by using sporting events as a way to soften the nation’s image on the global stage. This is done extensively though the Saudi “General Entertainment Authority,” (GEA) which is responsible for throwing huge money, well above standard rates, to have western companies and athletes work or compete in the country. It’s part of Saudi Arabia’s “Vision 2030” plan, which aims to diversify Saudi assets away from fossil fuels, and turn the nation into a tourist attraction — but to achieve that, first there needs to be image sculpting, which is what the GEA helps achieve. The GEA has been key in paying WWE to hold shows in Saudi Arabia since 2018, when the GEA and WWE signed a 10-year agreement to hold shows in Riyadh, as well as bring Formula 1 to Saudi Arabia.

So, it shouldn’t be surprising that the GEA has deep ties to bringing Ronaldo to Saudi Arabia as well. Al-Nassr chairman Musalli Al-Muammar is an advisor to the GEA, a role which he began in 2020. This allows him to work in dual capacities: Try to bring Ronaldo to Al-Nassr and make his team better, while also getting a global megastar to extol the virtues of Saudi Arabia to the world, should he sign the contract.

What remains to be seen is whether Ronaldo’s ego will allow him to play for Al-Nassr. This is a move that would cut a couple of years off his waning competitive viability, effectively ending any hopes of winning another Champion’s League. Sure, he could return to Europe after a stint in Saudi Arabia, but at that point he would be near to 40, and the game will have passed him by — especially after playing against sub-par competition for years.

This would be the equivalent of an aging European star coming to MLS. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it would be a tacit admission that Ronaldo is there for the money, not for competition. Whether he needs more money, or if that’s enough to sway him — or hell, even if there are any Champion’s League teams calling right now can only be answered by Ronaldo or his agent. However, the largest contract in sports history is waiting for him in Saudi if he decides to leave Europe behind.

There’s no doubt that Saudi Arabia is hoping Ronaldo will accept the offer to join Al-Nassr and help them compete, bending the nation’s image in the process.

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