Israel's Foreign Ministry is considering recruiting the legendary soccer player, Cristiano Ronaldo, to promote the possibility of normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia, according to a Sunday evening report from KAN News.
Recently, Ronaldo, who is close to retirement, moved to Saudi Arabia to play for the Al Nassr soccer team. According to the report, the Foreign Ministry is hoping that because Ronaldo was recruited by a Saudi club, he may be a big enough name within the kingdom to help with the normalization of ties with Israel.
פרסום ראשון: משרד החוץ בתכנית שתגייס את רונאלדו לקדם את דעת הקהל בנוגע לנורמליזציה בין ישראל לבין סעודיה. @gilicohen10 עם כל הפרטים#חדשותהערב pic.twitter.com/ogyFgbM4P7— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) February 5, 2023
Why recruit Ronaldo?
With his high status and high number of followers on his social media pages, Ronaldo can help by spreading public awareness and creating a rapprochement between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry is still discussing the matter and no decision has been made.
Israel-Saudi Arabia normalization talks
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been open about his hopes of Saudi Arabia being the next Arab country to sign the Abraham Accords.
In December, Israeli news outlet i24NEWS reported that Saudi Arabia was looking to normalize ties with Israel. The news outlet cited Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Abdel al-Jubeir, who spoke to American Jewish leaders when he guaranteed that normalization between the two countries will happen eventually but it will take time.
Former ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said in early December that Saudi Arabia is likely to join the Abraham Accords, normalizing ties with Israel within the next year.
In recent years, numerous Israeli officials have visited Saudi Arabia, including former Defense Minister Benny Gantz, according to Israel Hayom's report in 2022.
Ronaldo's Middle East move
Ronaldo signed to play for Al Nassr in December 2022 with the deal said to last until 2025.
BBC reported that he is receiving over £177 million ($212 million) per year, making him the highest-paid soccer player in the world. He however turned down a £305 million ($367 million) deal to join a different Saudi Arabian team, Al Hilal. Ronaldo explained that at the time the deal with Al Hilal came around, he was happily playing for Manchester United.
Al Nassr announced Ronaldo joining the team by posting pictures of Ronaldo holding his new jersey. "This is more than history in the making," they wrote. "This is a signing that will not only inspire our club to achieve even greater success but inspire our league, our nation and future generations, boys and girls to be the best version of themselves."
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Tovah Lazaroff and Seth J. Frantzman have contributed to this report.