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How Saudi Arabia can monetise the Ronaldo effect

REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri
Ronaldo's move to Saudi Arabia will set a precedent for more big-name players to arrive and develop the Saudi league

Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to Al Nassr could lead to a financial windfall for his new club and Saudi Arabia, football finance expert Neil Joyce told Reuters, as the Portugal international gears up for his first game in the country since the deal was announced.

Ronaldo was named captain of Riyadh ST XI — a team made up of Al Nassr and Al Hilal players — for an exhibition match on Thursday against Lionel Messi’s Paris St Germain.

The 37-year-old forward’s contract with Al Nassr is estimated by the media to be worth more than €200 million ($215.76 million) and the deal has drawn a huge amount of attention which is likely to offer monetary opportunities, Joyce said.

“It’s well-publicised the growth of the Al Nassr fanbase after Ronaldo joined, they went from under a million fans to like eight million in a space of like 10 days,” said Joyce, who is CEO and co-founder of CLV Group and advises clubs on how best to maximise their revenues through engagement with their global fanbases.

“There are monetary opportunities for them. For sponsorship, suddenly showing the global brands that you can reach eight million fans, there’s some monetisation that they could benefit from straight away on it.

“He’s got a heavy following around celebrities, TV, entertainment and pop music, so, there are content opportunities for Saudi Arabia to almost be a hub for TV and entertainment. Also to promote the country as a destination.”

According to Joyce, Ronaldo’s move to Saudi Arabia would also set a precedent for more big-name players to arrive and develop the Saudi league in the same way to Pele’s impact on US Soccer after he joined New York Cosmos in 1975.

“It’s more of a short-term hit that they can get with him. But also, if they want to become the next version of the MLS (Major League Soccer). Think back to Pele,” Joyce added.

“The Ronaldo effect could take hold in that area and, given the success of the World Cup in that region, I think it makes a lot of sense for Ronaldo and the value that it can bring in the not-too-distant future.

“You’re going to see a series of relatively high-profile stars that maybe are entering the latter stages of their career, probably moving over to Saudi Arabia.”

As well as luring Ronaldo, Saudi Arabia has signed up Messi as a tourism ambassador, with the country hosting a new chapter in the celebrated rivalry between them.