Saudi Arabia is aiming for its next big move in the sports world.
On Monday, the country's soccer club Al-Hilal offered a world-record-sized package to French soccer star Kylian Mbappe. In total, the team is willing to spend $1.1 billion to sign the 24-year-old for one year this summer. That includes a $776 million salary and a $332 million transfer fee to his current team, French club Paris Saint-Germain.
PSG confirmed the offer and gave Al-Hilal permission to open negotiations directly with Mbappe, according to The Associated Press.
Mbappe has been playing for PSG since 2017 and currently earns $128 million per year. In recent years, however, the two have been in a reported contract standoff.
PSG left him off the roster for its preseason tour of Japan this week after the striker recently decided he wouldn't take a 12-month extension on his contract, which ends in 2024. The club reportedly doesn't want him to leave after the upcoming season as a free agent and says he'll either sign a new contract or will be sold.
Once he becomes a free agent, it's been expected Mbappe would join Real Madrid. In 2021, PSG denied a $190 million offer from the team to sign Mbappe.
If he takes the deal with Al Hilal, the player could still join Real Madrid next summer as expected — but with a bit more money in his pocket.
The salary offered by Al-Hilal would be the highest ever for an athlete, beating the four-year $674 million deal FC Barcelona gave Lionel Messi in 2017. And it wouldn't be the first time the two players were in each other's company — or competition.
Last month, Al-Hilal reportedly offered Messi a three-year, $1.6 billion deal after he left PSG, but they missed out. He ultimately signed with MLS' Inter Miami for $50 to $60 million over two-and-a-half years.
If Mbappe takes the deal, he'll join Cristiano Ronaldo in the country's soccer world. Last year, another of Saudi Arabia's four Pro League clubs, Al-Nassr, gave the forward a $214 million deal over two-and-a-half years.
All of these moves by Saudi clubs are part of the country's effort to drive the game's biggest players to the oil-rich country. Saudi teams have been recruiting from Europe's top leagues, all with large offers.
And it's not just soccer — Saudi-funded LIV Golf shook up the sports world when it formed an agreement with the PGA Tour last month, with offers to pay massive amounts to lure some of the sport's top performers.
Both Saudi Pro League and LIV Golf have taken heat due to its majority ownership group, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. Some have claimed it is part of the country's "sportswashing" effort to erase the nation's alleged human rights violations.
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