The cat is out of the bag on Saudi Arabia’s talks with Real Madrid, and the question now turns to whether the unwanted attention will scuttle the deal.
The reigning La Liga champions have discussed a $182 million partnership that would make the Saudi state-owned Qiddiya project the lead sponsor of Real Madrid’s women’s team for a decade, according to leaked documents seen by The Times.
The deal would also require at least four players from the men’s first team to promote Qiddiya.
- Qiddiya, which broke ground in 2019 on a massive construction project near Riyadh, is a sports, arts, and entertainment mega-complex slated to open in 2023.
- The project is part of Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Plan, which aims to diversify the revenue of the world’s second-biggest oil producer as global concern over climate change threatens its primary source of income.
- The country’s $400 billion sovereign wealth fund has been pouring assets into U.S. markets, including a recent $3.3 billion worth of investments in major video game companies.
The now-exposed talks are likely to stir controversy. Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund withdrew its bid to acquire Newcastle United of England’s Premier League last summer after human rights groups objected to the country’s potential involvement.
Neither Saudi Arabian officials nor Real Madrid have acknowledged the talks, perhaps hoping to stave off the attention that thwarted the country’s last attempt at investing in European soccer.