Arguably the most famous face in world football, Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, has reportedly turned down a €6 million ($A9.7 million) a year deal to be the face of Saudi Arabian tourism.
The 35-year-old striker, who currently plays for Italian club side Juventus, reportedly knocked back the deal due to Saudi Arabia’s appalling human rights record.
According to the UK’s The Telegraph Sport, Saudi Arabia’s tourist body wanted to use Ronaldo in a series of ads targeting Europeans that showed the staunchly conservative Kingdom as the ideal place to holiday.
It’s been reported that Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi was also offered the gig, however, the claim has not been confirmed by his management.
Saudi Arabia is desperate to throw off its reputation as an authoritative Muslim state and attract more global visitors as its neighbours Dubai and Qatar have worked hard to do in recent times. It has faced global condemnation for murdering journalists critical of its the country’s authoritarian rulers and the treatment of dissidents and human rights activists. In 2018 Saudi Arabia carried out 184 executions, the third most of any country behind China and Iran.
Saudi Arabia has been flogging its “Welcome to Arabia” tourist campaign to the world since it was unveiled in 2016. Government officials believe the Kingdom can no longer rely on oil for much of its revenues and tourism could prove the ideal replacement.
In 2017, some 16 million tourists visited the country; however, much of the numbers were to do with religious pilgrimages and the annual Hajj. In 2019, it was reported that tourism was worth $US25 billion annually to the country. Putting that in perspective, tourism to Australia is worth over $A60 billion annually.
And not that Ronaldo needs the work. In June this year, Forbes reported he’d become soccer’s first ever billionaire thanks namely to his annual $A50 million a year salary from Juventus and a myriad of sponsors that includes brands such as Herbalife Nutrition, KFC, American Tourister and Tag Heuer.
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