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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Neymar’s $300M Move Displays Saudi Pro League’s Impact

  • Neymar joins Ballon d'Or winners Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema in Saudi Arabia.
  • The Saudi Pro League just secured a U.S. media rights deal with Fox Sports.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Saudi Pro League continues to make its impact felt across international soccer just one week into its new season.

Neymar is joining the upstart league in a deal that will cost nearly $300 million, including a $98.5 million transfer fee. Al-Hilal lured the Brazilian superstar from Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain with an $88 million annual salary for the next two seasons.

If it wasn’t already clear, the SPL has no plans to stop courting the sport’s top players. Cristiano Ronaldo has made the biggest headlines thanks to a contract valued at more than $200 million with commercial incentives. He was followed by former Real Madrid teammate and 2022 Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema, who is reportedly making more than $100 million per year.

While the SPL couldn’t lure Kylian Mbappe for even just one year — despite being willing to shell out at least $1 billion in total — Neymar is only 31, which still represents a coup for the Saudi League, as he is much younger than Ronaldo (38) and Benzema (35).

Expanding Media Reach

Some SPL coverage has been broadcast via Fox Sports’ digital channels since Friday. The network has signed on as the league’s English- and Spanish-language media rights partner in the U.S. and could reportedly show several games per week on its FS2 cable channel. 

While it’s unclear how much the rights are costing Fox, any media exposure from a major American company is a big step up for a league with little previous clout in international soccer.

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