Saudi Arabia’s government is looking to sign some 20 foreign stars to join its top soccer league in deals that could exceed a combined $1 billion, reports the New York Times.
Clubs in the Saudi Pro League have reportedly begun approaching global soccer stars with “some of the highest annual salaries in sports history,” according to the NYT. Cristiano Ronaldo recently finished his first season playing with Saudi club Al Nassr as part of his reported $214 million-per-year contract reached last year to make him the highest-paid athlete ever by annual salary.
Ronaldo’s deal is through 2025. The 38-year-old recently confirmed plans to continue playing in the SPL, adding he thinks the league could be a top-five league worldwide.
“I am happy here, I want to continue here, I will continue here,” Ronaldo said, per The Athletic. “And in my opinion, if they continue to do the work that they want to do here, for the next five years, I think the Saudi league can be a top-five league in the world.”
Ronaldo could be joined in Saudi Arabia by his former Real Madrid teammate Karim Benzema. ESPN reported that Benzema had been offered a two-year, $428 million contract to join Saudi Pro League club Al Ittihad.
Al Ittihad has also attempted to lure Lionel Messi in an offered deal reportedly worth $386.5 million per season. Messi will leave French club PSG at the end of this season and is reportedly also drawing interest from FC Barcelona and MLS club Inter Miami.