Saudi Arabia says it wants its investors to take over Manchester United and Liverpool – and hopes Cristiano Ronaldo will come to play in the domestic league.
The Minister of Sports, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, revealed the country’s latest sporting ambitions in an interview with Sky News – with the sovereign wealth fund already owning Newcastle and now financing a breakaway golf chain.
The availability of United – after the Glazers announced plans for a potential sale – and Ronaldo is something of an intriguing Prince Abdulaziz.
He will be keen to sign Ronaldo with the Saudi Pro League side after the World Cup, as the 37-year-old was a free agent following a fraught departure this week from United.
“Who wouldn’t want him to play in their league?” Prince Abdulaziz said Sky News. “He’s a role model for a lot of young players – him and Messi.”
Sky Sports News understand Al-Hilal Saudi Club is exploring a deal to sign Ronaldo.
The vision will witness the Saudi League, which includes both Ronaldo and Messi, who is still registered with Paris Saint-Germain but has already signed to promote Saudi Arabia.
“It has benefited a lot in terms of tourism to the kingdom,” Prince Abdulaziz said. “If they can, I would like to see them play in the Saudi League.”
The Saudis bought Newcastle last year through the Public Investment Fund, which the English Premier League claims is not under government control despite the presidency of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
There are now two more Premier League clubs on the market – Liverpool and United – and the sports minister wants one – or both – of them to come under Saudi ownership.
“I hope so, if there are investors and numbers accumulated, this makes a good business.” Then the private sector can come, or companies can come from the kingdom.
He added, “The Premier League is the best league in the world. Everyone watches the Premier League. It is the most watched league and there are die-hard fans of these teams in the Kingdom. So it will be beneficial for everyone.”
“I can say we have a strong league. It’s not one of the strongest leagues in Asia. You know, we’re building towards a better future. And we’re seeing how the future holds that.”
He continued, “And you know, I’ve heard about this speculation in the news like everyone else. I don’t have any details on any of the reports that have been released. But you know, what I can say is that we have Messi as ambassador for tourism in the Kingdom with the Ministry of Tourism – and that has benefited Much.
“In terms of tourism to the Kingdom, if they can, I would like to see them play in the Saudi League, and as you know, if the top players in the Saudi League participate and play that will enhance the programs that we’re doing.”
Manchester United co-owner Avram Glazer has spoken out for the first time since announcing the club’s potential for sale.
Sky News Tracked him down near his home in West Palm Beach, Florida, where he was asked Why now is the time to sell the club.
He said: “As we announced yesterday, the Board has gone through a process and decided it will look at different strategic alternatives – and that’s what we’re doing.”
He repeated the answer when asked why the club had not been sold earlier and added, “We will see where that leads us.”
The Glazers are reported to be enraged by Cristiano Ronaldo’s remarks in their recent interview and Ronaldo left United this week by mutual consent.
But Avram Glazer refused to be drawn into the striker’s claim – echoed by many fans – that his family “don’t care about the club”.
He told Sky News: “Well, I’ll tell you about Cristiano Ronaldo – he’s a fantastic player for Manchester United, I appreciate everything he’s done for the club and I wish him all the best for the future.”
How everything changed in 16 days…
November 8: Liverpool FC’s owners, Fenway Sports Group, say they are “open to investors” to come in and help the club – to which they remain “fully committed”. Reports had previously claimed that FSG was open to selling the club.
November 11: Liverpool have announced that manager Mike Gordon, the chairman of FSG, will step down from his position amid reports of the club being sold.
November 13: Interview with Cristiano Ronaldo TalkTV His criticism of Manchester United, the Glazer family and manager Erik ten Hag among others has been made public.
November 17: The second part of Ronaldo’s interview is broadcast, in which he claims the Glazers “don’t care” about United.
November 22, 5:30 PM: After taking legal advice, Manchester United announced that it had terminated Ronaldo’s contract with United by mutual consent, and the 37-year-old became a free agent.
November 22nd, 7.30pm: Two hours after confirming Ronaldo’s exit, Sky News broke the story that the Glazers are open to selling Manchester United.
November 22, 9:30 p.m.: Two hours later, Manchester United issued a statement revealing that the Glazers were open to identifying “strategic alternatives… including new investment in the club, sale or other transactions involving the company”.
November 23: Reports in the UK claim that British billionaire and Manchester United fan Sir Jim Ratcliffe, who previously expressed interest in taking over at Old Trafford, will be entering the bidding race for United.
November 24: Liverpool have announced that sporting director Julian Ward, who replaced Michael Edwards in the role just a year earlier, is set to leave the club at the end of the season. Research director Ian Graham will also step down from his role.
November 24: Saudi Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal reveals to Sky News his country’s ambition to take over both Manchester United and Liverpool.