Madrid: Real Madrid will play in Dubai in January next year, it has emerged, as part of the city’s Football Challenge, which sees top European clubs play each other.
In the past, AC Milan, Paris St-Germain and the German national team have taken part in the event, which is usually held at Al Nasr’s ground, although no venue for the event has been disclosed as yet.
The news comes after Emirates airline agreed to sponsor Real for the next five years. Florentino Perez, Real Madrid C.F. president and Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman and chief executive of Emirates Airline and Emirates Group, signed an agreement at the team’s Bernabeu Stadium in the Spanish capital on Thursday, giving the Dubai-based carrier its fifth shirt sponsorship deal in European football.
“Both of us are at the top of our game and we are very proud to be associated with the most successful football team in the world,” said Shaikh Ahmad of the deal, without disclosing the financial terms, which are reported to be around €150 million (Dh710 million) over the five seasons.
“They have a big fan base all over the world and we are on the same level of brand,” said Shaikh Ahmad, who revealed the news about the Football Challenge, in an interview with Gulf News. “We are in a number of countries, Germany, UK, France and, at the end of the day, our focus is what the audience and supporters think.”
Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, who made football history in 2009 when he transferred to the Spanish club for a world-record transfer fee of £80 million, said he was excited to wear the new strip. “It’s a great deal and very good to be part of this association.” Asked if he would try out Emirates Airbus A380 simulator during his next visit to Dubai, he laughed and said he was very excited about such a prospect.
Real stars Karim Benzema, Pepe and Luka Modric were among the players who attended the signing and launch of the shirt, which comes after the club earlier this month confirmed the departure of coach Jose Mourinho.
“I expect we will get the best coach [to replace Mourinho],” said Ronaldo. Meanwhile, German midfielder Sami Khedira said he wished Mourinho all the best. “It’s been a wonderful time and he gave me the chance to play here and I can’t say anything bad about him. It’s a pity his time has ended.”
While Mourinho is on his way out of Real, one person who may be moving to Madrid is Liverpool striker Luis Suarez, who said in an interview that he would welcome an approach from the Spanish giants after being widely criticised by the British media.
Benzema told Gulf News that Suarez would be “welcomed like any other player” if the move did take place.
Meanwhile, Shaikh Ahmad hinted the airline’s next sponsorship deal could be outside European football. “Maybe you will see us in another continent soon but I don’t think we will be announcing it yet,” he said.
“I think we are well represented in terms of brand sponsorship.”
Real Madrid is the world’s richest football club, with an annual turnover of €513 million,