Saudi Arabia’s unashamed plans to turn the kingdom into a massive sporting hub has a new target, with football giants Manchester United and Liverpool in their sights.
Saudi Arabia’s sports minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal revealed interest in the potential club ownership on Sky Sports – with the country already owning Newcastle United and funding rebel golf league LIV.
“I hope so, if there are investors and the numbers add up, and it makes a good business,” he said. ”Then the private sector could come in, or companies could come in, from the kingdom.
Watch the world’s best footballers every week with beIN SPORTS on Kayo. LIVE coverage from Bundesliga, Ligue 1, Serie A, Carabao Cup, EFL & SPFL. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >
“We will benefit, sports in Saudi will benefit from these collaborations of this ownership because we do exchange programs already with Newcastle and our connections around the world.
“The Premier League is the best league in the world. Everyone’s watching the Premier League. It’s the most watched league and there are diehard fans of these teams in the kingdom. So it would be a benefit for everyone.”
Both Manchester and Liverpool are seeking outside investment, with reports United could be sold in its entirety by the Glazer family.
Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal also told BBC Sport: “From the private sector, I can’t speak on their behalf, but there is a lot of interest and appetite and there’s a lot of passion about football.
“It’s the most-watched league in Saudi and the region and you have a lot of fans of the Premier League.
“We will definitely support it if any [Saudi] private sector comes in, because we know that’s going to reflect positively on sports within the kingdom.
“But if there’s an investor willing to do so and the numbers add up, why not?”
Liverpool’s owners Fenway Sports Group are “open to investors” but remain “fully committed to” the club, they said in a statement earlier this month.
It’s no secret Saudi Arabia has invested more than $2 billion in long-term football sponsorship deals in recent months, with that money coming from the country’s Public Investment Fund.
It’s the same fund that’s been used to fund the breakaway LIV, led by CEO Greg Norman and widely condemned for tearing the sport apart.
Richarlison brace sees Brazil down Serbs | 01:10
Despite fears the country is “sportswashing” by buying high-profile events to bolster its damning human rights reputation, the sports minister says he just wants to improve his nation’s football league.
“I can say that we have a strong league. It’s not one of the strongest in Asia. You know, we’re building towards a better future. And we see how the future holds up for that,” he told Sky Sports.
And building the league’s base could include securing the services of likes of superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.
“Who wouldn’t want him to play in their league?” Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal said.
“He’s a role model to a lot of young players and then Messi – I’d love to see them both play in the Saudi League.
Richarlison slots goal of the World Cup? | 00:36
“Top players coming to the Saudi League to play would reinforce the programs we are doing and it will showcase that the league is strong.”
The potential Manchester sale has come at a testing time for the club, after Cristiano Ronaldo’s shock interview where he claimed the owners “do not care” about United.
Ronaldo’s contract was terminated at the club by “mutual consent” days later.
Saudi Arabia are reportedly set to face competition for the ownership of Manchester United, with reports British billionaire and lifelong Red Devils fan Sir Jim Ratcliffe has expressed interest.
Politics stealing the focus in Qatar? | 03:51