RIYADH (Middle East Eye) – Footballer Cristiano Ronaldo has reportedly turned down a multi-million-dollar opportunity to become the face of Saudi Arabian tourism.
The deal amounted to $6m per year and is understood to have included Ronaldo’s image being used on all promotional material and his making visits to the country, according to the UK’s Telegraph newspaper.
Ronaldo’s footballing rival Lionel Messi has also been approached by the kingdom’s tourism authority, but his view on the proposal is not yet known, the paper said.
Representatives of Ronaldo and Messi refused to discuss the matter when approached by The Telegraph.
Sports and entertainment have formed part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 strategy to diversify the economy and improve its international reputation.
However, groups such as Amnesty International have long campaigned against what it says is the kingdom’s use of such connections to distract from its human rights violations.
Saudi Arabia staged the Spanish Super Cup in Jeddah in 2020, with Messi’s Barcelona competing for the trophy alongside Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Valencia.
In October, a coalition of human rights groups called for a boycott of the first Ladies European Tour golf event being held in Saudi Arabia over concerns it would be used to "sportswash” Riyadh’s record on women’s rights.
Also last year, Amnesty cautioned against Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund’s attempted takeover of Newcastle United FC of the English Premier League.
The takeover ultimately failed after several months of waiting to pass the league’s owners and directors’ test.
Amnesty International has also raised concerns over this year’s Saudi Formula One race planned for Jeddah.
Earlier this week, Ronaldo became the highest scorer of all time, after the 760th goal of his career, scored in his team Juventus’s 2-0 Italian Super Cup win over Napoli.