Footballing star Cristiano Ronaldo has reportedly rejected a $6 million-a-year (Rs96 crores-a-year or Rs8 crores-a-month) offer to be the face of Saudi Arabian tourism.
But the Middle Eastern country has not given up hope of attracting a world-class footballer to help them out, with Lionel Messi in their sights.
According to The Telegraph, the deal on offer is understood to include the player making visits to the Kingdom and his image being used in all promotional material. But the 35-year-old Juventus striker has decided to “pass” on the offer.
Concerns have been raised over Saudi Arabia’s human rights record as the country tries to attract world-class sport to its shores. Sports and entertainment have formed part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 strategy to diversify the economy and improve its international reputation.
However, groups such as Amnesty International have long campaigned against what it says is the Kingdom’s use of such connections to distract from its human rights violations.
Meanwhile, Messi’s views on the deal are not yet known.
Representatives of both Ronaldo and Messi, however, have refused to discuss the matter when approached by The Telegraph.
Saudi Arabia staged the Spanish Super Cup in Jeddah in 2020, with Messi’s Barcelona competing for the trophy alongside Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Valencia.
In October, a coalition of human rights groups called for a boycott of the first Ladies European Tour golf event being held in Saudi Arabia over concerns it would be used to “sportswash” Riyadh’s record on women’s rights.
Also last year, Amnesty cautioned against Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund’s attempted takeover of Newcastle United FC of the English Premier League.
The takeover ultimately failed after several months of waiting to pass the league’s owners and directors test.
Amnesty International has also raised concerns over this year’s Saudi Formula One race planned for Jeddah.
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