Supported by the Saudi Sovereign Fund, one of the richest in the world, the wealthy Saudi Pro League continues to shop among the big names in world football that some gossips would say are “aging”. The latest “KB9” for those who identify with Karim Benzema.
Money not being a problem for the Saudi authorities, the figure of 200 million euros per year over two years was mentioned as proof of the acquisition of this surface fox. Just that ! And considering he’s signed up for three years, the total amount could be even more impressive. Karim Benzema, like Lionel Messi, will also be ambassador of Saudi Arabia to promote the candidacy of this country (Greece and Egypt) for the 2030 or 2034 World Cup.
Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo while waiting for Luka Modric, Hugo Lloris, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, N’Golo Kanté, Angel Di Maria and Roberto Firmino… it’s obvious, by recruiting illustrious thirty-year-old footballers from the Messi era, Saudi Arabia wants to revolutionize football.
The country has indeed listed a good dozen stars from the world of football with a view to their recruitment by clubs in the Saudi Arabian championship or more strictly speaking the Saudi Pro League. There are several reasons why Saudi Arabia has suddenly taken to bringing world footballing legends onto the turf of its stadiums. One of the first motivations would be to say that it is for the beautiful eyes of a promotion of the Saudi football league.
However, and failing that, it seems that the Saudi Pro League is gradually transforming into an ultra-luxurious retirement home for world stars at the end of the course. With the exception of the Croatian Luka Modric, who is still hesitant for next season, and Lionel Messi who will go elsewhere, American in this case, all the Ballons d’Or of the last fifteen years could end up in Saudi Arabia to compete.
Indeed, we want to attract media attention and generate interest in the Saudi Pro League. Which somewhere would be legitimate in terms of means and to help develop the speed of football in the country and increase income related to broadcasting rights and sponsors. In short, the classic blablabla.
But in reality, we have the right to wonder about what drives Saudi Arabia to offer crazy salaries to the best thirtysomethings in the world. In any case, it is not the pleasure of the eyes of “chibanis” at the end of the course (Ronaldo 38 years old, Benzema (35), Modric (37) … By attracting very popular players, especially on social networks, the country takes advantage of the image of football to achieve other goals, like the United States of the 1970s.
Indeed, to promote the domestic championship and host the World Cup which he will organize in 1994 by stealing it from Morocco, Uncle Sam has brought to his lawns several Golden Balls and great players at the end of their careers in the 1970s like Pelé, Beckenbauer, Cruyff, Gerd Müller… China did the same in the 2010s with Carlos Tevez or Ezequiel Lavezzi, but it quickly retracted, moreover it did not had the Cup, she had given up applying.
That said, it is one sign among others that, like Qatar before it, Saudi Arabia is betting heavily on the soft-power sports diplomacy. The Saudi Kingdom, often criticized for reasons other than sport, remains determined to use football to improve its image internationally. To do this, it has an abundance of petrodollars to satisfy its ambitions.
The latter being in reality only the organization of a World Cup. Riyadh is indeed aiming for the 2030 World Cup, or even 2034, and has forged a partnership with the African Confederation (CAF) which can bring it many votes when choosing the host country.
The deadline for submitting the three candidatures (Spain Portugal Morocco), the four South American countries (Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay) and Saudi Arabia, Greece Egypt is set for this month of June. The latter have still not presented their case. Will they give way to the Morocco-Spain-Portugal trio?
For now, MBS the Crown Prince of the Saudi Kingdom has offered to pay for the construction of new stadiums in Egypt and Greece for several billion euros. He also reportedly offered to pay the full cost of hosting the World Cup. Provided that 75% of the meetings take place in the Gulf country.
To be continued…