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    Saudi Arabia is building LIV Football before our eyes – here's what's next

    Karim Benzema (center) is the latest superstar tempted to move to the Saudi Pro League. Credit: Reuters/Al Ittihad

    Lionel Messi has decided Saudi Arabia isn't for him, but the state professional league is already hard at work on its plan B for aging superstars. the disastrous Chinese blockbuster name race nearly a decade ago. However, in the “everyone has a price” approach previously adopted by LIV Golf, a line-up of at least 10 blockbuster targets was defined.

    Messi's £320m-a-year offer with Al -Hilal, revealed by Telegraph Sport last month, wasn't enough to lure the World Cup winner to the Middle East, and instead he's heading to the US to capitalize on the Land of Opportunity.

    Instead, Saudi Arabia got its hands on the current Ballon d'Or winner as Karim Benzema ended talks with Al Ittihad this week.

    Sovereign fund takeovers of four state-owned clubs in recent days could also bolster signing efforts N “Golo Kante is in a proposed £86.2 million a year package and he is likely to join his French counterpart in Al Ittihad.”

    H'Golo Kante (right), whose contract with Chelsea expires this month, is expected to join the Saudi Professional League. Photo: Getty Images/Mark Enfield

    Negotiations are also underway with representatives of Hugo Lloris, Alexis Sanchez, Sergio Ramos Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Angel Di Maria and Roberto Firmino.

    But insiders in Saudi Arabia insist there is a carefully crafted plan behind the eye-catching potential deals this summer. Former Manchester City chief executive Harry Cook led efforts to professionalize the competition during his brief stint in the league.

    After spending only five months in Riyadh, he is set to return to English football as Birmingham City's general manager. However, he played an integral role in drafting the initial goals, in which the state acts as an intermediary, before making the final decision about the club. The pro league knows that only a minority will end up signing.

    In the coming seasons, the plan is to reduce the focus on aging superstars in their latest contracts and instead target players who have just turned 30. years

    However, the crown prince's alleged success after the Cristiano Ronaldo deal in December emboldened ambitions to close at least a couple of attractive deals relatively quickly.

    Cristiano Ronaldo, five-time Ballon d'Or winner, has signed a two-year deal with Al Nasr. Credit: Reuters/Ahmed Yosri

    Since Ronaldo signed his contract, Saudi Pro League attendance has nearly doubled year on year. Much attention is paid to the digital fan base of the players. Government officials said “talks” about the league among women and girls on social media have increased by 237% in the past six months.

    In this state that is still decapitating its alleged criminals, sports laundry is only part of the potential benefits of transferring star names. In its current form, the government actually sponsors all professional clubs.

    This week, the kingdom's four leading clubs were fully transferred to the State Investment Fund [PIF] as part of plans for their eventual privatization, and their potential growth in value is now more important than ever.

    PIF will be The Sports Ministry tweeted that it owns 75 percent of Al Ittihad, Al Ahli, Al Nasr and Al Hilal as part of a plan to encourage companies and development agencies to invest in clubs and acquire them.

    As part of the Kingdom's Vision 2030 program, the goal is to boost the league's revenue to £400m a year by 2030. Such numbers seem huge for a competition in which most teams can struggle in the first league.

    However, state sources have pointed to Newcastle's meteoric success in recent years, which they say shows that Western skepticism is being overcome. a more ambitious scheme in which the country will again try to host the World Cup in the Middle East – at any cost.

    The country has prioritized a potential bid for 2030 by offering to privately pay for new sports stadiums in Greece and Egypt if they agree to unite with the nation.

    However, the potential offer from Spain, Portugal, Ukraine and Morocco is seen by some as a potential favorite. It is assumed that Saudi Arabia is ready to consider 2034 as a potential alternative.

    Billions will be needed to transform the country for the World Cup. This context somewhat obscures the sheer absurdity of the £200 million a year fee demanded by Benzema & Co.

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