SAUDI ARABIAN club Al Hilal has launched an audacious $1.15 billion bid for the services of footballing superstar Kylian Mbappé.
News.com.au reports that a bid has been received by French club Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), from Al Hilal. The Saudi club’s staggering offer is comprised of a $492m transfer fee paid to PSG, as well as a $1.15b salary offer to Mbappé directly.
While Real Madrid is believed to be the front runner in the race for the star forward’s services, this offer is surely tempting for the Frenchman, particularly as it’s believed to be for a single season only, after which he could pursue a deal with Real.
At $1,149,673,040, the offer would pay Mbappé a jaw-dropping $131,182 an hour, or $36 a second. A season in Riyadh probably isn’t the same as sunning yourself in Miami but for that money you can buy your own beach.
It was certainly enough to raise the eyebrows of NBA star LeBron James, who tweeted, “Me heading to Saudi when they call @RichPaul & @mavcarter for that 1-year deal!” above a video of Tom Hanks running from Forrest Gump.
James jokes, for now. But in the same way they raided the PGA with LIV Golf, the Saudi regime and its Public Investment Fund (PIV) could conceivably start a rebel hoops league, or more likely, buy into one of the new NBA franchises rumoured to be launching in Las Vegas or Seattle in coming years. In that event a lucrative offer to James for one more season, perhaps throwing in some cash for one of his sons, Bronny or Bryce, would certainly be tantalising.
Don’t rule it out, for as the Mbappé offer shows, the Saudi sports wash is showing no signs of slowing down. After bludgeoning its way into the world of golf, the regime has clearly set its sights on football, the world’s biggest sport, enticing Cristiano Ronaldo to Riyadh-based club Al Nassr earlier this year (see below).
Saudi clubs were also in the hunt for Lionel Messi before the Argentine GOAT signed with Inter Miami and subsequently had GOATS from other sports – LeBron, Serena Williams, David Beckham, plus (internet GOAT) Kim Kardashian, as giddy as schoolgirls on the sidelines of his first game.
Is there a problem with this? Athletes deserve to get paid, right? Never mind the Saudi regime’s appalling human rights record and the fact that it imprisons LGTBQI+ people. The regime’s ‘sportswash’ is naked and brazen, recalling the South African apartheid regime’s rebel cricket tours of the ’80s. Back then, West Indian players who accepted the cash – referred to at the time as ‘blood money’ – and toured the country were ostracised upon their return.
That’s not happening here. Signing Ronaldo was a coup. Before the Mbappé offer Al Hilal signed central defender Kalidou Koulibaly from Chelsea and Ruben Neves from Wolverhampton. The trickle is becoming a procession.
If they land Mbappé, a superstar in his prime and arguably the world’s best player, then all bets are off. As LIV shows, with a seemingly bottomless pit of oil money, the Saudi regime is equipped to start their own rebel leagues in other sports – cricket and tennis are ripe for the picking.
We’ll have to wait and see where Mbappé lands. In the meantime, here’s a list of the top 5 biggest contracts in sports history. Don’t be surprised if, in a few years’ time, athletes on Saudi contracts occupy the bulk of it.
FC Barcelona: $999m (4 years)
This is what Messi earned for his four-year Barcelona stint. He’s now picked up an additional $150m over 2.5 years with Inter Miami, his career earnings now totalling an estimated $1.6 billion, including playing salaries, bonuses and endorsements. If his first game for Miami in which the Argentine star scored a late freekick to win the game, as well as the attendant social media avalanche is anything to go by, this is money well spent.
Al-Nassr: $795m (2.5 years)
Ronaldo, 38, scored 14 goals in 16 games for the Riyadh-based club, which finished second in the Saudi Pro League. If this list were based on annual salary he would top it with $315m per year.
KC Chiefs: $746m (10 years)
Mahomes is the most exciting quarterback in a generation, already claiming 2 Superbowls and 2 MVPs at just 27. He’s chasing Brady’s 7 Superbowls and if luck goes his way is in with a shot.
LA Angels: $632.5 million (12 years)
Before Shohei Ohtani broke onto the scene in the last couple of years, Trout was baseball’s best player. He makes this list based on the length of his contract – per year, it’s a paltry $52.5m.
DAZN : $541 million (5 years)
Boxing’s biggest name commands a huge salary and rightly so. The Mexican champ is currently peerless in the ring and kills it in pay-per-view buys.