Cristiano Ronaldo will make a guaranteed $75 million a season playing in Saudi Arabia, which could rise to close to $200 million a year thanks to commercial agreements with his club. Neymar Jr. will make $175 million this season playing for Al-Hilal in the Saudi Arabian league. Ruben Neves, Kalidou Koulibaly, Roberto Firmino, Fabinho, Allan Saint-Maximin and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic are among the players who have chased the money to Saudi Arabia this offseason.
NBA players have noticed.
Giannis Antetokounmpo — part owner of Nashville FC in the MLS, which just played in the League Cup Finals against Messi and Inter Miami — was asked on the street by TMZ if he would play at the end of his career in Saudi Arabia for the cash.
“Of course… If the NBA worked out, maybe like a trade between the NBA and Saudi Arabia League, I’m there.”
This isn’t the first time Antetokounmpo has talked about this. When Al-Hilal was throwing Monopoly money at French star Kylian Mbappe — reportedly more than $300 million for one season — Antetokounmpo posted this:
Antetokounmpo is doing alright for himself, making a top-10 NBA salary of $45.6 million this season. He will be eligible for an extension this September but is not expected to sign it because he can make more waiting until next July and signing an extension that would be worth an NBA record estimated $334 million over five years, with that fifth year worth an estimated $76 million.
That’s a lot of money, but not Saudi soccer league money.
There is a Saudi basketball league and a few have wondered if — as has been done with LIV Golf and now soccer — the Saudi Public Investment Fund and other funds from oil-rich nations might turn their eyes to making inroads in basketball. The Qatar Investment Authority has bought a reported 5% investment stake in Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Washington Wizards and WNBA’s Mystics.