There was a time when certainly Lionel Messi and possibly Cristiano Ronaldo could have been spending the twilight years of their playing careers in the United States.
Since David Beckham made the jump to MLS in 2007, the league has built up a reputation as the premier destination for aging superstars. Legends like Zlatan Ibrahimović, Frank Lampard, and Thierry Henry have spent at least a season or two enjoying the U.S. and playing against tamped-down — but steadily improving — competition.
But all that could be changing due to the economic might of Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom threw immense amounts of cash at Ronaldo — who is thriving against Saudi Pro League’s meager talent — and are reportedly doing the same with Messi, who is already an ambassador for the country.
It’s all part of the KSA’s plan to infiltrate Western sports culture, which includes enormous investments in golf and video games, among others. As a result, MLS’ international pipeline of retiring talent could be in peril.