Karim Benzema: the latest prominent soccer star to shift from Europe to Saudi Arabia
Karim Benzema is the latest prominent soccer star to shift from Europe to Saudi Arabia. On Tuesday, his move to Al Ittihad was confirmed, but that was perhaps not the most eye-catching news coming out of the Arab Kingdom. A day earlier, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) said that it will take control of four domestic clubs: Al Nassr, where Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo plays, as well as Al-Ahli, Al-Ittihad and Al-Hilal, the 2021 Asian Champions League winner.
It’s a landmark move to bolster the Arab Kingdom’s investment in the game. PIF, a $600 billion fund linked to the controversial Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, will acquire a 75% stake in the four clubs, with the remaining shares held by new non-profit foundations. The acquisition is part of a comprehensive government initiative described as “a bold investment and privatization project.”
“The transfer of the four clubs will unleash various commercial opportunities, including investment, partnership, and sponsorships across numerous sports,” said the PIF.
The drive to back the clubs, and hence the Saudi Pro League, with state funding, aligns with the government’s Vision 2030 economic diversification plan. In a statement, the Saudi Press Agency said that “the privatization and ownership transfer of clubs aims to accelerate progress in a variety of sports across the kingdom further growing participation, providing cutting edge facilities, increasing competition and nurturing future champions.”