Saudi Arabia Economy: Highest-paid football stars in the Kingdom

The General Sports Authority pledged $650 mn into sports
Saudi Arabia Economy: Highest-paid football stars in the Kingdom
More and more international football stars are moving to Saudi

The highest-paid football stars are gravitating towards Saudi Arabia, a testament to the Kingdom’s diligent efforts to diversify beyond the oil industry into other sectors. 

Aligning sports with the country’s broader objectives, the General Sports Authority of Saudi Arabia has pledged a considerable $650 mn as part of Vision 2030. These funds are earmarked to provide a significant lift to the nation’s sports sector and fuel its transformation.

The policy has borne fruit with the arrival of top-tier football talent in Saudi Arabia. This, in turn, has led to increased recognition on the international stage.

An emergent football nation

As a part of the government’s Vision 2030 initiative, sports have been prioritized as an essential component in diversifying the nation’s economy. Consequently, investments have flowed into both infrastructure and acquiring talent.

To illustrate, the launch of ambitious sports clubs and attractive contracts for football stars demonstrates the commitment to this cause. Some of these teams, such as Al-Nassr and Al-Hilal, have garnered international recognition and consistently perform very well in regional competitions.

Attracting global talent

Moreover, part of the Kingdom’s football boom is the influx of international talent. These footballers are drawn by generous contracts and excellent sports infrastructure, among other factors.

The following is a list of the highest-paid football stars in the Kingdom, with their respective earnings.

1. Cristiano Ronaldo

Leading the pack of the highest-paid football stars is none other than Cristiano Ronaldo. This record-breaking athlete holds the title of the highest-paid football player in history. Signed by Al-Nassr, Ronaldo’s presence alone ignites the Saudi Pro League, drawing other international players to follow suit. With an incredible $209.745 mn a year, Ronaldo commands the limelight in the Saudi League and global football, setting the benchmark for other highest-paid football stars.

Read: Saudi unveils sports investment project as PIF takes over leading football clubs

2. Karim Benzema

Another member of the highest-paid football stars club is Karim Benzema, the reigning Ballon d’Or holder. With a three-year deal worth $208.532 mn with Al-Ittihad, Benzema’s move from Real Madrid showcases the allure of the Saudi Arabian football arena. A front-runner in his own right, Benzema’s choice serves as a retirement strategy, allowing him to trade a few more years on the pitch for a comfortable future.

3. Neymar

The latest star to shine on the Saudi Arabian pitch and join the highest-paid football stars ranks is Brazilian superstar Neymar. Snagged by Al-Hilal, Neymar’s incredible $167.311 mn-a-year contract catapults him to the higher echelons of the Saudi Pro League. Holding the record for the highest transfer fee, Neymar’s signing reflects the league’s focus on bringing in top-tier talent from around the world.

4. N’Golo Kante

With a $104.508 mn a year contract with Al-Ittihad, N’Golo Kante is another football star who now calls Saudi his home. No one can dispute the value Kante brings to the field, and this lucrative deal solidifies his place amongst the greatest defensive midfielders.

Saudi football stars

5. Riyad Mahrez

Meanwhile, Riyad Mahrez’s shift from Manchester City to Al-Ahli has proven to be a significant upgrade, salary-wise. Taking home $53.35 mn a year, Mahrez’s Saudi Arabian paycheck outweighs his previous earnings by an impressive fivefold. Undoubtedly, this move helped the Algerian international round off his career, further consolidating the list of the highest-paid football stars.

6. Jordan Henderson

Jordan Henderson’s transfer caused a ripple among Liverpool fans who expected him to remain in England. However, with an annual salary of $43.65 mn, Henderson’s move to Saudi represents a monumental shift in his playing career. Consequently, this propels him to join the highest-paid football stars in the Kingdom.

7. Sadio Mane

Last but not least, Sadio Mane’s arrival at Al-Nassr marks a new chapter in his football journey. Moving on from a challenging stint at Bayern Munich, Mane now commands a cool $40 mn a year. The transition to Saudi is emblematic of the potent team Al-Nassr is building – a strategy that comes with an elevated price.

The broader impact

The influx of international football stars reveals the Kingdom’s effort to boost the appeal of football, both nationally and internationally. 

Furthermore, it generates significant interest from global sponsors and encourages international sports tourism. More so, it reassures other football players that Saudi Arabia is an attractive destination to showcase their talent and advance their careers.

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