Cristiano Ronaldo won’t join a Saudi Arabian football club this summer after rejecting the team’s $277 million salary offer, according to ESPN.
The unnamed club would have made Ronaldo, 37, the highest-paid player in the sport over the next two seasons while sending an approximately $30 million transfer fee to Manchester United.
Ronaldo reportedly told United his desire to leave the club this summer after re-joining them last August. But club told Ronaldo In June they won’t transfer him and manager Erik ten Hag said he the team “are planning for Cristiano Ronaldo for the season and that’s it. I’m looking forward to working with him. Cristiano is not for sale. He is in our plans and we want success together.”
Ronaldo’s decision to outright reject his seemingly best and only offer right now suggests he isn’t looking for a payday. He reportedly wants to leave United for a team who will play in the UEFA Champions League next season. Since the United finished sixth in the English Premier League this past season, meaning they’d play in the UEFA Europa League.
That leaves out any non-European clubs as potential destinations. However, it doesn’t look like many teams are that interested in the Portuguese forward.
Chelsea, who some believe is Ronaldo’s preferred landing spot, already ruled out signing him, per ESPN. The Bundesliga’s Bayern Munich as well as Ligue 1’s Paris Saint-Germain both have no interest in bringing in Ronaldo, either.
That doesn’t leave much on the table for Ronaldo, meaning there is a very real possibility for an awkward reunion at Old Trafford if he remains with Manchester United.
Ronaldo’s return to Manchester United after first leaving in 2009 hasn’t gone well. He scored 18 goals and three assists in 30 appearances this season. United also finished just sixth in the Premier League this past season.
Saudi Arabia keeps trying to lure star athletes
Ronaldo isn’t the first high-profile athlete sought by a Saudi-backed sports organization.
The controversial LIV Golf tour wrangled a few big-name golfers this year for its upstart competition, including huge payouts to Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, and Bryson DeChambeau. However, Tiger Woods reportedly turned down a massive amount of money to join LIV and has been vocal about his opposition to the new league.
Saudi money reached other major sports as well and has already been entrenched in EPL football.
Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund (the same one that funded LIV) bought Newcastle United recently, and Sheffield United is owned by Saudi businessman and prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz al-Saud
Medina Spirit, the 2021 winner of the Kentucky Derby, was owned by a Saudi sheikh before being stripped of the title. The country also hosted a Formula 1 race in 2021.
Which Saudi club could have offered Ronaldo?
It’s hard to guess which team wanted Ronaldo, but he was likely approached by a club from the highest division in the country – The Saudi Professional League, which has existed since 1976. There are 16 clubs currently in the league, with two more to be added next year.
The most likely club, though, is Al-Hilal, which has won 18 titles in the league, including five of the past six. They’ve also made 31 championship appearances in 45 years. The team also plays in Jeddah, which is the second-largest city in Saudi Arabia and the commercial center of the country.