The Saudi Football Association have reportedly been in talks with UEFA regarding the possibility of a Saudi Pro League club participating in the 2025 UEFA Champions League.
Italian outlet Calcio e Finanza (via FootballTalkHQ) reports that the Saudi FA have held conversations with UEFA in a bid to boost Saudi football's prominence. The Saudi Pro League has made waves this summer amid the arrival of household European names.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Al Nassr), Karim Benzema (Al Ittihad), and Neymar (Al Hilal) all headed to the Middle East this year. Other names include Sadio Mane, Ruben Neves, N'Golo Kante, Marcelo Brozovic, and Roberto Firmino.
The cash on offer in Saudi have lured plenty of Europe's high-profile players out of the grasp of Champions League football. However, it may not be long before those stars are back among Europe's elite if the talks come to a successful agreement.
It remains to be seen how the Saudi FA would select the clubs to participate in the 2025 Champions League. However, you would assume that it would be the club that finishes atop the Saudi Pro League.
Hence, with such high stakes on the line, it would only improve the motivation among players to win the Saudi Pro League. However, fans' reactions to the reports have been negative due to the non-European aspect of the proposal.
There has never been a non-UEFA club to compete in the Champions League. Israeli side Maccabi Haifa took part in the competition but this came after Israel were admitted to UEFA in 1991.
Cristiano Ronaldo closed door on potential Champions League return after arrival in Saudi Pro League
Cristiano Ronaldo well and truly had the red carpet rolled out for him when he was unveiled by Al Nassr in December last year. The Portuguese icon left Europe for the first time to sign for Al-Alami.
The 38-year-old vowed that his European story was done, during his welcome ceremony. He stressed that further last month (via Sports Illustrated):
"I'm 100 percent sure I won't return to any European club. I opened the way to the Saudi league, and now all the players are coming here."
Ronaldo insisted that he wouldn't make a return to European football:
"I won't return to European football. The door is completely closed."
However, the five-time Champions League winner may yet make a return to European football albeit while playing for his Saudi club Al Nassr. He could add to his tally of 140 goals in the competition. This is the most of any player in history.
Ronaldo also holds the record for the most appearances in UEFA club competitions as he has made 197 for the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester United.