• Saudi Arabia wanted to make Ronaldo or Messi the face of tourism
  • Ronaldo turned down a deal worth $7.3 million a year
  • The deal also would have seen Ronaldo making regular visits to the country

Cristiano Ronaldo has reportedly rejected a lucrative deal from the Saudi Arabia government to become the face of the country’s tourism.

Ronaldo has turned down a $7.3 million per year deal that would see his images used in the "Welcome to Arabia" commercials and visit the country on regular basis, The Telegraph reported. The Saudi tourism authority has also approached Lionel Messi, who is believed to have not reacted to the proposal as yet.

Messi and Ronaldo have dominated the world of soccer for nearly two decades now. They have won a combined 11 Ballon d’Or awards (Messi – 6, Ronaldo – 5). While FC Barcelona skipper Messi has been associated with only one club since his senior debut in 2005, Ronaldo has had successful stints with multiple clubs – Manchester United, Real Madrid, and his current club Juventus.

Messi and Ronaldo regularly faced each other when the Portuguese star was at Real Madrid
Messi and Ronaldo regularly faced each other when the Portuguese star was at Real Madrid AFP / Josep LAGO

The report has stated that the Saudi government is trying to promote its image and wants some publicity for its tourism sector. Sports and entertainment are an integral part of Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 strategy to alter the economy and improve its international reputation. Saudi Arabia has paid hefty sums to host major sporting events in recent years. They reportedly paid more than $38 million for the rematch between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz in December 2019. Heavyweight champion Joshua, who is one of the U.K.'s most popular boys among the current generation, subsequently backed Saudi despite accusations of "sportswashing," meaning, many believed Saudis were hosting the sporting event only to improve its reputation given their poor record on human rights.

When the Spanish Super Cup took place in Jeddah last year, Messi's then-manager, Ernesto Valverde, admitted that Barcelona had joined Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, and Valencia at the tournament "because of the money."

Saudi Arabia is one of the richest countries in the world, while also being one of the most-visited places. However, they have an unsettled human rights history, and they are also not famed for their efforts to acknowledge women’s rights. Any celebrity that accepts an offer from the Saudi government is bound to be on the receiving end of some serious criticism and that may have been the reason why former Real Madrid and current Juventus superstar Ronaldo turned down the offer.

Earlier this week, Ronaldo, 35, became the highest scorer of all time, after netting the 760th goal of his career, which he scored in his team Juventus' 2-0 Italian Super Cup win over Napoli.