SYDNEY (AP) – After Missed Lionel MessiSaudi Arabian football club Al-Hilal on Monday made a record €300m ($332m) bid for Kylian Mbappe, an offer the French striker could take part in Cristiano Ronaldo in the oil rich kingdom.
Paris Saint-Germain confirmed the offer for his player and gave Al-Hilal permission to start negotiations directly with Mbappe.
The 2018 world champion is in a contract crisis with PSG after deciding not to take up the option of a 12-month contract extension. Instead, he plans to retire as a free agent at the end of next season, when he is widely expected to join Real Madrid.
PSG have banned Mbappe from his pre-season tour of Japan The French club are determined to sell him unless he can be persuaded to sign a new contract.
A new deal now looks highly unlikely as relations between 24-year-old Mbappe and PSG grow increasingly strained.
Saudi Arabia has tried to buy into international sport in recent years.
Alongside Ronaldo, whose contract has reportedly netted him up to $200 million a year, Saudi Arabia-funded LIV Golf has shaken up professional golf.
The moves are part of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s effort to use the kingdom’s oil wealth to provide new jobs and opportunities for Saudi Arabia’s youth. However, critics have dismissed the effort as “sports washing” and attempted to use professional sport to boost the kingdom’s image as it remains one of the world’s top executioners and has been fighting a years-long war in Yemen.
US intelligence also believes Prince Mohammed ordered the assassination and dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
Earlier in the year, Al-Hilal failed in an attempt to land Messi and the Argentinian star opted for a move to Inter Miami instead.
The bid for Mbappe would make him the most expensive footballer in history, surpassing the $262m PSG paid for Neymar, who arrived from Barcelona in 2017.
The bid represents Saudi Arabia’s most ambitious move to date as part of a determined recruitment drive to attract the game’s biggest players to the country.
After Ronaldo agreed to join Al-Nassr in December, Saudi teams went into overdrive, targeting big names from Europe’s top leagues. Karim Benzema, the great Real Madrid player and current Ballon d’Or winner, signed from Saudi champions Al-Ittihad last month and was joined by 2018 world champion N’Golo Kante.
Roberto Firmino, Kalidou Koulibaly and Marcelo Brozovic are among the other big names set to rise to the lucrative Saudi league, which is making mega-money offers to players to boost the profile and quality of football in the country.
While that wasn’t enough to convince Messi to join Al-Hilal after leaving PSG, more stars are expected to follow in Ronaldo and company’s footsteps.
Premier League players like Riyad Mahrez and Jordan Henderson have recently been linked with moves from Manchester City and Liverpool respectively.
The reported salaries and commercial deals for Ronaldo, Benzema and Kante together could net them nearly $1 billion.
Mbappe has said he plans to let the last year of his contract expire, which would leave PSG powerless to stop him leaving for free next year.
The French champions, owned by Qatar Sports Investments, have already left Messi for nothing and are determined to earn a transfer fee for a player who is widely regarded as one of the few capable of replacing Messi and Ronaldo as football’s biggest star.
His exclusion from PSG’s Japan touring squad raises the possibility that he could be substituted next season if he refuses to sign a contract or agree to a departure during this transfer window.
Al-Hilal is said to be among a plethora of clubs who have been informed of his possible availability but it is unlikely that any of the offers on offer can match.
There was an expectation that he would join Madrid where there was one Offer of $190 million rejected from PSG in 2021. Madrid need a quality striker after losing to Benzema at the end of the season.
Mbappe had until July 31 to extend his contract by a year. He has been at the club since 2017 after being signed by Monaco in a reportedly $190m transfer.