Move for the money


Following the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the world of soccer is going through major reformations as Saudi Arabia’s increasing affinity for football is introducing new business methods and testing the morals of current soccer players and their clubs. 

In late August of 2021, Portuguese soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo rejoined his former team Manchester United and found success in his first season back with the club. Ronaldo finished the season with 18 goals in 30 matches, which made him the third top goal scorer in the Premier League.

However, in the following season, he had one of his worst seasons yet. Ronaldo hoped to have the same memorable experience as he did back in the 2000s, but his chemistry with the squad began to falter during the 2022 season. The team started to crumble with his presence, so they eventually benched him for the majority of the games. 

After a similar occurrence playing for Portugal in the recent World Cup, Ronaldo was benched after developing a rocky relationship with the club manager. However, during all the drama that occurred in the tournament, there were more schemes happening. Saudi Arabia was on the hunt to recruit Ronaldo onto one of their club teams, Al Nassr, for more than €75 million a year compared to previous offers ranging around €20 million, and a transfer fee of €200 million compared to around 100 million. With this offer and opportunity for a newenvironment, Ronaldo readily accepted. 

Saudi Arabian team, Al Nassr, now has 14 wins and 2 losses compared to its statistics during 2020-2021 of 13 wins and 10 losses.

A month after the World Cup ended, Messi was also offered a contract to join a Saudi Arabian soccer club, Al Hilal. They offered him a contract worth about €300 million per year, but were ultimately rejected. 

Although there were contrasting results, they had the same effect on the media and international soccer teams. These two offers showed everyone that soccer is increasingly being changed by money, and that high wages in foreign countries were much more appealing than sticking with normal salaries in European club leagues or America’s Major League Soccer.

Foreign countries have not only changed soccer player’s lives by introducing new salaries, but have also started to take over the clubs as well. Club ownership for Newcastle was sold to Saudi PIF, Manchester City to the Abu Dhabi United Group and Paris Saint-Germain went to Qatar Sports Investments. With this, the quality of support that athletes receive improves and the player can be transferred around accordingly to help them develop.

“If revenues do not continue to grow, European clubs’ wage bills will be capped,” DBRS Morningstar Senior Vice President for Sports Finance Michael Goldberg said on CNBC. “Under this scenario, increased individual player salaries could lead to reduced squad quality over time and a competitive disadvantage versus teams outside Europe.” 

With Saudi Arabia desperate for more attention to their country and soccer clubs, they have a willingness to spend high amounts of money for that to happen. The ramifications on other countries and clubs are quite large. 

In Europe, players will demand more for normal transfers. This will lead to either player dissatisfaction, or a decrease in squad value and efficiency. Previously, retiring European players would transfer to the MLS in America. But with these Middle Eastern countries offering more, that process could potentially change.

Foreign countries such as Saudi Arabia are completely changing the expenses used on soccer clubs and players. This deep spending may collapse the soccer world’s economy and be dangerous to the future of the sport.