Cristiano Ronaldo was the first in December. But what at the time seemed like an eccentricity has become a worrying reality. Saudi Arabia convinced the Portuguese with the biggest contract in history. 200 million caused the one from Madeira to pack his bags without looking back to wear the shirt of Al-Nassr. Then they tried with Messi, who could have received an offer of 500 million per year. Benzema did accept and signed for Al-Ittihad in exchange for 100 million. Just like N’Golo Kanté or Rúben Neves. The next could be Koulibaly, or Ziyech, or Morata. Or Modric. The offensive is total. The threat, more serious than it seems. This summer, Saudi Arabia will try to take all the talent that is possible in their League and it doesn’t matter what it may cost them.

With the desire to wash its international image and the desire to be a football reference in Asia, the Sovereign Fund of Saudi Arabia designed a plan to double the value of its League with the last four Ballon d’Or: Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric, Karim Benzema and Leo Messi. So far, they have already won two, but they have lost one. His strategy consists of a colossal injection of public money into the salaries of great footballers. The sovereign wealth fund has taken a 75% stake in the country’s four biggest teams and hopes to sign three stars for each this year.

At first it was only European clubs, the last one was Newcastle, then big stars, coaches and now what is innovative is that any footballer is sensitive to receiving an offer. “We are only at the beginning”, warns Hafez Al-Medlej, head of the AFC Marketing Committee and former member of the Executive Office of the Asian Football Confederation. “From now on, all transferable footballers will be a target for Saudi clubs. China’s experience has nothing to do with ours, it was purely marketing. Football is not very popular there. In Arabia we have a State project and it will not be limited to four big teams, but to all of them. Because the Saudis’ passion for football has no limits”, he explained a few days ago in an interview with Koura.

“We don’t sign players who are finished. Al-Hilal will sign Rúben Neves, who is 26 years old and wanted Barcelona. And Benzema arrived at Al-Ittihad after winning the Ballon d’Or at Real Madrid. We hope that Bernardo Silva will arrive, from Manchester City, and we will start working on the signing of Mohamed Salah”, he said.

Since time immemorial there have been leagues that have seduced the best footballers at the end of their careers. Either for economic or family reasons, or simply in search of anonymity. It was that of the USA for years, and in this way it recruited Pelé. And in recent times this trend had moved to Asia. China and Japan tried. Also Emirates. But it was Qatar, with the organization of the World Cup, that made the Saudis get their long teeth definitively, but they have much more money (Saudi Arabia’s GDP in 2022 is over a trillion dollars and that of Qatar remains at 225,000 million).

In their aim to become a reference, the Persian Gulf country will bid for the World Cup in 2030. If they fail, don’t hesitate, they will try for the one in 2034. And so until they succeed.