To enhance its influence in the international arena, Saudi Arabia may spend billions of dollars to own world sports icons like Messi or Ronaldo.
Currently, this kingdom is ready to pay the captain of the Argentina team, the 7-time Ballon d’Or winner – messi $ 400 million/year in the final stage of his career.
Although a huge sum, even pompous in football, it is only the latest move in a series of moves by oil country leaders who are pouring billions of dollars into the fields. sports, art and music.
Saudi Arabia hopes this spending, supported by excess revenue from being the world’s largest crude exporter, will stimulate the young generation and boost the country’s tourism industry.
Oversaw this so-called “soft power” game is Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also spending billions of dollars building up Saudi Arabia’s military capabilities while pursuing a more opportunistic diplomacy. .
“It was a complete reorientation of the kingdom,” said Kristin Smith Diwan, senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. They want to convince people that this is a welcoming place, not a threatening place.”
The level of “huge” spending makes Saudi Arabia impossible to ignore for the world’s political and business elites.
Its economy is one of the fastest growing in the Group 20 by 2022, fueled by the highest oil prices in a decade, and it now boasts the 7th largest sovereign wealth fund world.
Sports properties are currently highest on the shopping list. At the end of 2022, Portuguese football superstar Cristiano signed a contract worth 200 million USD/year with Al Nassr club.
Saudi Arabia’s football has Ronaldo playing for Al Nassr, intending to bring Messi to the army. Photo: GETTY
More than a year ago, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia (PIL) led a consortium to buy the English Premier League football club United for more than 300 million pounds (more than 370 million dollars).
Saudi Arabia is considering co-hosting the 2030 FIFA World Cup, after seeing the recent success of neighboring Qatar.
According to Bloomberg, PIF is also said to have spent billions of dollars to sponsor their LIV Golf tournaments, aiming to attract stars like Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson in 2022. PIF has also considered a $20 effort. billion dollars to add Formula 1 to its growing sports portfolio.
Elsewhere, venues in and around Jeddah and Riyadh have hosted big-money boxing matches featuring everyone from heavyweight champions Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk to heavyweight champions Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk. promising fighters Jake Paul and Tommy Fury.
According to Simon Chadwick, professor of sport and geopolitical economy at Skema Business School in Paris, sport is essential to what Saudis are doing as it moves towards a world less dependent on income from oil.
Saudi Arabia also wants tourism to account for 10 percent of gross domestic product by 2030, with the hope of attracting 100 million visitors a year. By 2022, the kingdom has welcomed about 16 million visitors (announced from the Saudi Arabian Tourism Authority).
Saudi Arabia uses sports and culture to attract tourists to the capital Riyadh. Photo: GETTY
To achieve its goals, it looked beyond professional sports. From Andy Warhol exhibitions, biennial art and electronic concerts in the desert, to celebrity chef restaurants in Riyadh and partnerships with top cooking schools, it is spending a lot of money to create an entertainment and relaxation industry from scratch.
But not everyone buys the hype. Campaigners say Saudi Arabia is diverting attention from its poor domestic record on free speech and human rights.
Lina Al-Hathloul, head of monitoring and advocacy at Brussels-based human rights organization ALQST, said: “I’m glad these changes are happening, but it creates false impression of our country.
She noted that once the strategy of restoring the crown prince’s reputation and attracting Western investors and visitors pays off, “the violations we point out will no longer work”.