SYDNEY (AP) — After missing out on Lionel Messi, Saudi Arabian football team Al-Hilal made a record 300 million euro ($332 million) bid for Kylian Mbappe on Monday, an offer which could see the France striker join Cristiano Ronaldo in the oil-rich kingdom.
Paris Saint-Germain confirmed the offer for its player and has given Al-Hilal permission to open negotiations directly with Mbappe.
The 2018 World Cup winner is in a contract standoff with PSG after his decision not to take up the option of a 12-month extension on his deal. Instead, he plans to walk away as a free agent at the end of the upcoming season when he is widely expected to join Real Madrid.
PSG cut Mbappe from its preseason tour of Japan on Saturday, with the French club determined to sell him unless he can be convinced to sign a new contract.
A new deal now looks highly unlikely with relations between the 24-year-old Mbappe and PSG becoming increasingly tense.
Saudi Arabia has sought in recent years to buy its way into international sports. Besides Ronaldo, whose contract reportedly earns him up to $200 million a year, Saudi-funded LIV Golf has shaken up professional golf.
The moves are part of efforts by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to leverage the kingdom’s oil wealth to provide new jobs and opportunities for Saudi Arabia’s youth.
However, critics have dismissed the efforts as “sportswashing,” attempting to leverage professional sports to clean up the kingdom’s image as it remains one of the world’s top executioners and waging a yearslong war in Yemen.
US intelligence agencies also believe Prince Mohammed ordered the killing and dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
Earlier this year, Al-Hilal failed in an attempt to sign Messi, with the Argentina great choosing to join Inter Miami instead.
The bid for Mbappe would make him the most expensive football player in history, overtaking the $262 million PSG paid for Neymar, who joined from Barcelona in 2017.
The offer represents Saudi Arabia’s most ambitious move yet as part of a determined recruitment drive to lure the game’s biggest players to the country.
Photo: PSG’s Kylian Mbappe celebrates after scoring his side’s opening goal during the French League One football match between Troyes and Paris Saint Germain, at the Stade de l’Aube, in Troyes, France, Sunday, May 7, 2023. Saudi Arabian team Al-Hilal has made a record $332 million bid for France striker Kylian Mbappe. (AP Photo/Lewis Joly, File)