Luka Modric and Hugo Lloris are among a list of “more than 10” top players headed by Lionel Messi and Karim Benzema the Saudi Arabian football authorities have lined up to bring to the Middle East.
Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, N’Golo Kante, Angel Di Maria and Roberto Firmino are also among the seasoned World Cup and Champions League winners being lined up for the Saudi Pro League, according to AFP.
The latest information comes as Saudi officials are in Paris and Madrid to try to wrap up deals with Messi and Benzema respectively, according to sources and reports, that would allow them to join Cristiano Ronaldo in the oil-rich kingdom.
Saudi authorities are “in contact with more than 10 players, many of them won the World cup or the Champions League, to join the Saudi league next season”, the source close to the negotiations said.
In addition to Messi, “the list includes Benzema, Ramos, Di Maria, Modric, Hugo Loris, Kante, Firmino, Alba and Busquets”.
“Beside receiving quite lucrative offers they will play in a very competitive league,” the source said, adding that the Saudis aimed to “seal most of the deals” before the new season starts on August 11.
Separately, a Saudi government official told AFP that the authorities are holding negotiations with “world-class players”.
“The objective is to establish a very strong and competitive league and elevate the Saudi clubs’ levels,” the official said.
All the players listed are major stars at the tail-end of their careers. Apart from France goalkeeper Lloris, who has a year left at Spurs, all are out of contract this month.
Saudi Arabia, under its 37-year-old de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is trying to improve its austere image and attract tourists and investment, partly through sport.
The world’s biggest oil exporter has thrown hundreds of millions at sports deals including Ronaldo’s signing, Formula One and the divisive LIV Golf tour, drawing frequent claims it is “sportswashing” its human rights record.