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Business News/ Sports / Football News/  Saudi Arabia, Aramco to buy major football clubs; may host Lionel Messi, Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo

Saudi Arabia, Aramco to buy major football clubs; may host Lionel Messi, Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo

Saudi Arabia’s $700 billion wealth fund and state oil firm Aramco are set to take control of several local football clubs, home to stars including Cristiano Ronaldo, as the kingdom bids to become a powerhouse in the world of professional sport.

Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi may play in the Saudi Pro LeaguePremium
Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi may play in the Saudi Pro League

Saudi Arabia's push to establish a formidable presence in the world of professional sports has gained significant momentum as its $700 billion sovereign wealth fund and state oil company, Aramco, prepare to assume controlling stakes in a number of local football clubs. The kingdom's ambitious move aims to position itself as a global powerhouse in the sporting arena and attract substantial investment to elevate the stature of the Saudi Pro League to the top echelons of football leagues worldwide.

Under this transformative plan, the Public Investment Fund (PIF) is set to acquire 75% ownership of four prominent Saudi Pro League clubs, namely Al-Ittihad, Al-Ahli, Al-Nassr, and Al-Hilal. Simultaneously, Aramco has announced its intent to take over Al-Qadisiyah, a club based in the eastern city of Khobar, located near the company's headquarters, Bloomberg reported.

This strategic initiative is part of the Saudi government's broader vision to quadruple the league's annual revenue to an impressive $480 million by 2030. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has made sports a focal point of his efforts to diversify the kingdom's economy away from oil dependency, aiming to shed its conservative image and embrace increased tourism opportunities.

Also Read: Will Lionel Messi join Cristiano Ronaldo in Saudi Arabia?

The Saudi Pro League has already secured global attention with the signing of illustrious players. France's Karim Benzema, widely regarded as one of the world's finest footballers, is reportedly poised to join Al-Ittihad following his departure from Real Madrid at the end of this season. Additionally, Cristiano Ronaldo, who joined the league this year in a widely publicised move, commands a staggering contract rumoured to be worth $200 million per annum. 

Reports have also surfaced suggesting that Riyadh-based Al-Hilal is actively pursuing Argentina's Lionel Messi, with a prospective annual contract value reaching an astonishing $400 million, as per the publication.

In 2021, the PIF spearheaded a consortium that successfully acquired the English Premier League club, Newcastle United, for over £300 million ( 3,081 crore). Furthermore, Saudi Arabia is contemplating a joint bid to host the prestigious FIFA World Cup in 2030, following the resounding success of the tournament in neighbouring Qatar.

Also Read: Don’t come back, Manchester United tells Cristiano Ronaldo

The PIF has earmarked substantial funds for its LIV Golf tour, attracting top-tier golfers such as Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, and Brooks Koepka. Moreover, the fund explored a potential $20 billion endeavour to add Formula 1 motor racing to its expanding portfolio of sports investments.

By seizing opportunities across a diverse range of sports, Saudi Arabia is poised to carve a prominent niche for itself in the global sporting landscape, cementing its status as a major player in the realm of professional athletics.

(With Bloomberg inputs)

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Sounak Mukhopadhyay
Sounak Mukhopadhyay, who also goes by the name Sounak Mukherjee, has been producing digital news since 2012. He's worked for the International Business Times, The Inquisitr, and Moneycontrol in the past. He's also contributed to Free Press Journal and TheRichest with feature articles. He covers news for a wide range of subjects including business, finance, economy, politics and social media. Before working with digital news publications, he worked as a freelance content writer.
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Updated: 06 Jun 2023, 01:30 PM IST
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