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The New Arab Staff

Cristiano Ronaldo rejects £5.3 million offer to become face of Saudi tourism

Ronaldo snubbed the offer [Getty]

Date of publication: 23 January, 2021

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In another attempt to use elite sports to promote its image globally, Saudi Arabia offered footballing start Cristiano Ronaldo £5.3 million to become the face of its tourism.
Iconic footballer Cristiano Ronaldo has reportedly snubbed a £5.3 million ($7.25 million) contract offer to become the face of Saudi Arabia’s tourism.

"The deal on offer is understood to include the player making visits to Saudi and his image being used in all promotional material," according to The Telegraph.

However, the Juventus forward and Portuguese international chose to "pass" on the offer.  

Saudi Arabia has also reportedly made the same offer to Lionel Messi, who is considered Ronaldo's main rival.

Representatives of both Ronaldo and Messi have yet to provide further comments on the matter.

Messi took part in a November 2019 friendly for Argentina against Brazil in Riyadh, where he thanked chairman of Saudi Arabia's General Authority of Entertainment Turki al-Sheikh for the opportunity.

“Sportswashing”

This is not the first time Saudi Arabia has tried to attract elite sports to the kingdom.

The Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) last year gave up on its attempted £300 million takeover of Premier League team Newcastle United, mostly due to piracy allegations over Qatar’s BeiN sports channel.

Rights groups at the time slammed the takeover bid as an attempt by Saudi Arabia to "sportswash" its poor domestic human rights record, as well as its role in the deadly war in Yemen.

Hatice Cengiz, widow of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, called on the Premier League to block the move, as it would become “complicit in murder cover-up.”

Last year, Amnesty International also urged Formula 1 to cancel the Saudi Grand Prix scheduled for 2021, while activists languish in prison. The report referenced prominent activist Loujain al-Hathloul, who campaigned for women’s driving rights.

In 2019, Saudi Arabia hosted the Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz Jr. boxing rematch. At the time, Joshua received criticism for partaking in what was described as yet another attempt to promote the kingdom’s image via popular sports.

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