The objective is the same as that set out a few decades ago by neighboring countries such as Qatar or the United Arab Emirates: to position itself in the world, open up to the West and dilute the rigidity of its absolute monarchy. Saudi Arabia wants to achieve that, and it knows very well that sport is an ideal channel – even a shortcut – to achieve it.
It has plenty of money to finance this idea: it is the main oil exporter in the world, and the State recognized in the last year that it reached the ceiling of its production. In this context, with the value of crude oil on the rise –among various factors, the war in Ukraine triggered the price internationally–, the Saudi Arabian monarchy gave several clues that it wants to establish itself as an important place in the concert of global sports .
The millions of dollars with which Al Nassr seduced Cristiano Ronaldo to finish his career were a demonstration of power, but also a demonstration of intentions: a door to the future. Ronaldo is the first. After him many will come.
That is why it was not surprising that the classic rival of the new Portuguese team, Al Hilal, which is technically led by Ramón Díaz, prepares a mega offer to take the captain of the Argentine National Team, Lionel Messi. From the group that commands the La Rioja they seek to seduce the Rosario. For this reason, it has already been leaked that the offer would be much higher than the one made to Cristiano, whose contract binds him for two and a half years for 209 million dollars.
Al Hilal wants to counteract the arrival of CR7 with the best player in the Qatar 2022 World Cup. According to what was reported by the Spanish media Mundo Deportivo, who, being Catalan, always has good information about Messi and his environment, the figure with which they will try conquering Messi is around 300 million for a season. Yes, he read that right: 300 million for a one-year contract.
Messi will be released on June 30 of this year from Paris Saint Germain, and although he seems to have everything agreed upon by word of mouth to continue at the Parisian club, at the moment nothing has been signed. His future will be a struggle between petrodollars: those that come from Qatar, the owner of PSG, against those that come from Arabia, the new mecca of this business called soccer.
The Saudi league – unlike its neighboring countries, with semi-professional tournaments – has a good football level, only far from the radar of the powers of America or Europe. Al Hilal and Al Nassr, in fact, make up the Riyadh derby.
The window of opportunity – and perhaps the prelude to the formal offer – to seduce Messi will occur on January 19, when the captain of the world champion will play a friendly match against Riyadh Season, a team made up of footballers from rival Al Hilal and Al Nassr, which will be directed by Marcelo Gallardo.
“Messi will end up in Saudi Arabia and I can tell you which team,” said Nasser Al-Attiyah this week, current champion of the Dakar Rally in the car category, and current leader of the toughest test in the world that takes place in… Saudi Arabia . Al-Attiyah did not say it by chance: the Qatari runner is part of the family that owns PSG and spends a good part of his year in Barcelona. “I am sure that in a few months, about 3 or 6 months, a club in Saudi Arabia will also sign Messi. You will see. And I can tell you in which team: I am sure that he will reach Al-Hilal ”, Al-Attiyah specified to Mundo Deportivo.
But the objectives of the Arab country –27 million inhabitants and a surface, unlike the small Qatar, larger than that of Mexico– do not stop at outlandish contracts like Ronaldo or eventually Messi. Arabia wants to organize the 2030 World Cup alone or accompanied: there is a candidacy in process for that World Cup to be held in Egypt, Greece and Arabia. The vertex of three continents: Africa, Europe and Asia.
A curiosity: it will compete against Messi’s country and Ronaldo’s. The joint applications of Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Paraguay and that of Spain-Portugal. We will have to see who seduces the FIFA managers the most. Qatar 2022 is a precedent that could give some clue of what will happen.
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