In December 2023, a deal was officially formalized as Cristiano Ronaldo signed with Al Nassr, A Saudi Arabian club. He shall be playing for Al Nassr till June 2025. Interestingly, this is not the first time a Saudi Arabian club set its eyes on Cristiano Ronaldo. Al Hilal had offered a deal worth around US$370 million when he was still at Manchester United. With Al Nassr, Cristiano will be getting over US$1 million weekly. The contract is worth well over US$200 million annually. Such staggering amounts of money make you wonder what the catch is for the Arabs. Let us discuss that today.

Interpret Soccer (Or Any Major Sport) As A Business

Before we delve deeper, there is something fundamental you must grasp. I know many of you love soccer and probably follow it passionately. However, I have noticed that many people still do not get the dynamics. Most of what happens in the world of soccer are business decisions. Even some of the controversies stem from business decisions in the background. I can speak at length about the recent world cup pertaining to this. However, today let us focus on Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to Al Nassr. Saudi Arabia stands to benefit way more than the staggering money they are giving Cristiano Ronaldo. Way more!!!

Cristiano Ronaldo’s Signing Has Economic Implications For Saudi Arabia

Ronaldo’s Staggering Social Media Following

Cristiano Ronaldo has a remarkable following on social media. Ronaldo has over 542 million followers on Instagram – the most followed person there. On Facebook, he has over 161 million followers. On Twitter, he has over 107 million followers. Saudi Arabia has a population of over 36 million people. That population is far eclipsed by all of Cristiano Ronaldo’s followers on social media.

When you look at that, you realize you have someone who can catalyse a whole economy. Imagine the number of global brands that want to be associated with Al Nassr and Saudi Arabia. When looking at the direct monetary returns on investment, it may be hard to bring it down to a figure. It is, of course, apparent that there are huge returns on investments.

Initial Surges For Al Nassr

Let us look at some of the notable changes Al Nassr enjoyed just days after signing Ronaldo. Just ten days after Ronaldo was signed, jersey sales reached almost US$230 million. Al Nassr’s official website crashed at some point due to continued visits. Just two days before 2022 ended, Al Nassr had roughly 850 000 followers. Now they have over 12 million followers (almost getting to 13 million). This is an increase that has occurred in just one month. This speaks to how powerful of a global brand Cristiano Ronaldo is. This is something Saudi Arabia and Al Nassr are capitalizing on.

Saudi Arabia Seeks To Be The Hub For Everything In The Gulf

The crux of this signing is building and enhancing Saudi Arabia’s image and reputation. Saudi Arabia is doing this to build itself into a notable brand actively involved in high-level soccer. Ronaldo’s signing is and will bring the spotlight to Saudi Arabian soccer. His signing will likely lead to more signings of high-level soccer players in Saudi Arabian clubs.

Already that has happened and is happening. It is not surprising that Saudi Arabia is putting concerted efforts into soccer. Soccer is the most followed sport in the world. Over 5 billion people watched the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Thus there is a strategic economic significance to being a sporting hub, especially for soccer. This is what Saudi Arabia is working towards, and the ripple effects will be far-reaching.

Like A Long Game Of Chess

Ronaldo’s signing has ignited some shifts. There are infinite business prospects that such shifts are opening up. Cristiano Ronaldo is a catalyst chess move in Saudi Arabia’s game plan. He has also been indicated to ultimately be instrumental in Saudi Arabia’s 2030 FIFA World Cup Bid. He may be an ambassador for that bid.

Ronaldo is in fact, one chess pawn, if you wish, in this much larger Saudi strategy.” – James Dorsey

This is interesting when you consider that Lionel Messi was appointed tourism ambassador for Saudi Arabia in 2022. Do not forget that Saudi Arabia is racing to host the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in 2026. In 2029, they are going to host the Asian Winter Games. When looking at all these moves, it is apparent Saudi Arabia wants to cement its geopolitical position in the global economy. I am mainly dwelling on the financial and material aspects.

Economic Benefits For Saudi Arabia Are Unquantifiable

Ronaldo’s Al Nassr signing is about putting Saudi Arabian soccer on the global map. Now all of a sudden, people worldwide talk about it. However, there is more to all this than just soccer. Soccer is a tool to draw attention towards Saudi Arabia in this scenario quickly. That will draw in investments from all corners of the world. The upcoming tournaments Saudi Arabia will host will continue to stimulate and cement that. If Saudi Arabia wins the bid to host the 2030 FIFA World Cup, that will be the epitome of it all. Yet, in reaching that apex, Saudi Arabia would have built infinite economic value for their kingdom.

Now you know that the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo by Al Nassr was not an ordinary move. It is a significant piece in an intricate and long-term economic plan by Saudi Arabia. There is no doubt that Ronaldo is benefiting immensely from his move to Al Nassr. However, what Saudi Arabia will benefit in the long run will far eclipse what it gave and will give him. Always remember that significant sports are not just fun and games. They are mainly top-level business and economic ventures.