DOHA (Special Envoy).- The advertising posters of Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, are these days marked by the image of Lionel Messi. The captain of the Argentine team, who debuts today in the World Cup Qatar 2022 facing the team of that Arab country, in addition, it appears in the commercial batches of the Saudi channels, which are seen here in the Qatari capital, and also in most of the chains in the region.
The most valuable player of this World Cup is the image of an impressive campaign of the Ministry of Tourism of the Arab giant, bordering Qatar, which earned it much criticism for lending itself to sportswashinga term popularized by organizations such as Amnesty International to describe the use of sport by governments to legitimize regimes accused of serious human rights violations.
This Tuesday, Scaloni’s team will debut in the World Cup against Saudi Arabia and will once again be on the scene the multi-million dollar contract that La Pulga signed with the government of the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman.
The head honcho of the regime, who this Sunday sat next to the emir of Qatar at the opening of the World Cup, is accused, among other several serious facts, of for ordering the murder and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the embassy of that country in Turkey.
Saudi Arabia is the largest economy in the Middle East and its wealth is based on oil, since It has 20% of the world’s reserves.. It is among the twenty richest countries in the world, although its GDP per capita lags behind the small emirates of Qatar, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. As Qatar did with the World Cup, the Saudis also seek to use energy dividends to clean up their image and expand their businesses.
The Argentine captain arrived in Riyadh last May. He was accompanied by his brother Matías, his teammate on the national team Leandro Paredes and other friends. “This is not his first visit to the kingdom and it will not be his last, and I am pleased to announce #Messi_Ambassador_Del_Turismo_Saudi”said Tourism Minister Ahmed al Khatib.
On that visit to the Middle East, in the middle of a break at Paris Saint Germain, Messi got to know one of the most paradisiacal places on the planet, the beaches of the Red Sea. The captain of the team published images on Instagram of him on a yacht with his brother and Paredes, and another with the caption Visitsaudi and the message “discovering the Red Sea in Saudi Arabia”. The contract was already signed.
“Discover your other side in Arabia” It is the motto of the campaign led by Rosario. “Lionel Messi wants you to unleash the search for your emotions and discover the unimaginable”invite several of the advertising pieces, with spectacular landscapes of the largest and most diverse country in this part of Asia.
The “Saudi Messi experience” proposes to know the jewels of history, culture, landscapes and adventure tourism. In the main piece that is seen on television at all times and on social networksthe best player in the world tries on a Saudi suit amid typical dances, gets into a jeep through the desert and scales one of the highest peaks.
In another video, he presents one of the most spectacular tourist bets in the world. Is about Riyadh Season, a mega project in which the royal family invested billions of dollars to become the entertainment point of the region. There, they built a city on the outskirts of the capital Riyadh for an event that lasts for more than two months. There’s snow in the desert and a 1-1 scale replica of New York’s Times Square, plus performances, music shows and guest stars from all over the world.
How much did they pay Messi? The numbers, details and duration of the contract are kept under lock and key. Both because of the regime and because of the player’s environment, which is very reserved when it comes to communicating any commercial relationship with the star. But there are some clues. For example, last year the Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo rejected the same offer from the Saudi government to be the face of the promotional campaign.
As published last year by the English media The Telegraphthe captain of the Portuguese national team and figure of Manchester United rejected an offer of about six million dollars a year.
Those who are familiar with these types of contracts between these countries and international figures maintain that the Argentine’s is in tune with the one that Qatar signed with David Beckham to be their cultural ambassador for the next ten years. The figure of the darling of England is in several graphic, television and documentary campaigns in the country that hosts the World Cup. Beckham arranged a contract of about 200 million dollars for ten years.
Saudi Arabia, they say, he outbid that offer to guarantee himself the best player in the world. This Tuesday, when the crown prince follows the game at the Lusail stadium along with the thousands of compatriots who will cross the only land border with Qatar, they will greet Messi as one of their own. They already insured the Argentine captain for several years.