After missing out on Lionel Messi, Saudi team Al Hilal made a record €300 million ($332m) bid for Kylian Mbappé on Monday, 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 Mbappé, but sources stated that Mbappé is not interested in the offer.
The 2018 World Cup winner is in a contract standoff with PSG after his decision to not 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.
Sources told ESPN that should Mbappé go to Real Madrid on a free transfer next summer, he would potentially get a €100m signing on fee. He would also get an €80m bonus this September should he opt to stay with PSG.
PSG cut Mbappé from their preseason tour of Japan on Saturday, with the French club determined to find an offer for him unless he can be convinced to sign a new contract.
Al Hilal’s bid would make Mbappé the most expensive player fee in history, overtaking the $262m PSG paid for Neymar’s rights when the team signed the Brazilian from Barcelona in 2017.
The bid 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.
Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kanté and Roberto Firmino are among the big names to head to Saudi Arabia’s lucrative league after Ronaldo agreed to a deal with Al Nassr in December.
Messi opted against Al Hilal, instead choosing MLS team Inter Miami CF after leaving PSG.
But a host of players have made the move, with more expected to follow before the start of next season. Premier League stars such as Riyad Mahrez and Jordan Henderson have been linked with moves.
Saudi Arabia has sought in recent years to buy its way into international sports. Besides the Ronaldo deal (his contract reportedly earns him up to $200m a year), Saudi-funded LIV Golf has shaken up that sport.
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 is waging a yearslong war in Yemen.
In addition, according to a U.S. intelligence report, Prince Mohammed ordered the killing and dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.