“I Don’t Care” – Splurged a Billion on Cristiano Ronaldo-Led Exodus, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Unfazed by Criticism

Published 09/21/2023, 10:32 AM EDT

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In the ever-evolving world of sports, where passion and politics often converge, a remarkable statement has emerged from the heart of Saudi Arabia. Amid accusations of ‘sportwashing,’ Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman seems unfazed by such criticisms. With Cristiano Ronaldo initiating the Saudi Pro League exodus with his transfer earlier this year, the Crown Prince’s take on the huge investments made by Saudi clubs is quite interesting.

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In an interview conducted recently, the Crown Prince emphasized the fact that he is primarily focused on the progress of his nation. Interestingly, SPL clubs invested over a billion dollars in the summer transfer window.

Saudi Crown Prince defends Cristiano Ronaldo-led exodus amidst ‘sportwashing’ claims

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Sportswashing, a term that has gained traction in recent years, encapsulates the idea of using sports as a vehicle for improving a nation’s global image. Critics argue that it can be a strategic distraction from other contentious issues. However, the Crown Prince’s response reveals a broader ambition.

In an exclusive interview, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman said, “If sportswashing is going to increase my GDP by 1%, then we’ll continue doing sportswashing.” Under Bin Salman’s leadership, Saudi Arabia has set its sights on leveraging the power of sports to drive not only global recognition but also economic growth. They aim to achieve another 1.5% increase in GDP, after seeing a 1% increase attributed to sports investments.

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Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman proudly proclaimed that “Saudi Arabia is the biggest success story of the 21st century.”

The Saudi government’s investment in sports is part of a broader strategy to improve the country’s international reputation and influence. By investing in sports, the Saudi government is hoping to create a more positive image of the country and to attract foreign investment and tourism. This comes under the Crown Prince and the kingdom’s vision of Saudi 2030.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to Al Nassr is the most high-profile example of Saudi Arabia’s sportswashing drive to date.

Ronaldo’s move to Saudi Arabia: Sportswashing or ambition?

The Portuguese superstar is one of the most popular and recognizable athletes in the world, and his signing is a major coup for Al Nassr and the Saudi Pro League as a whole. Ronaldo has defended his move to Saudi Arabia, saying that he is motivated by the challenge of playing in a new league and helping to develop soccer in the country.

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His move is also a major boon for the country’s economy, as he is expected to generate a significant amount of revenue for Al Nassr and the Saudi Pro League through shirt sales, sponsorship deals, and other commercial activities.

With Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s unapologetic stance, the kingdom has signaled its intention to march ahead, regardless of the criticisms. As the Saudi Pro League saga advances, it will be interesting to see how the sports investments make their way into the vision of the Crown Prince. Saudi Arabia’s audacious ambitions may yet prove to be a game-changer not only in soccer but also in the world’s economic landscape.

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Written by:

Sahil Sharma

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Sahil Sharma is a soccer writer at EssentiallySports. He's been a fan since childhood, but his love for the sport truly took off when Real Madrid won their record 10th UEFA Champions League title in 2014. That famous La Decima triumph turned him into a hardcore Madridista.
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Edited by:

Jayant Chhabra

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