Spanish giants Real Madrid will head to the UAE in January to take part in the Dubai Football Challenge.
The news was announced on Thursday by His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline and Group, as the airline was confirmed as new sponsors of the Spanish giants in a record five-year deal.
The Dubai-based carrier will have its name on the shirts of the world’s biggest club from next season in another coup for the company, which was first revealed by Sport360° back in April 2012.
While financial details of the exciting agreement were not revealed, it is more than the €20.5m (Dh97.1m)-per-year agreement with current sponsors Bwin, making it the biggest in Real’s history.
And in another boost for the country, Real will compete in the next edition of the Dubai Football Challenge – the last one in 2012 saw AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain, also sponsored by Emirates, take part in a one-off match.
“The announcement of our shirt sponsorship propels our relationship with Real Madrid to a whole new level,” said Sheikh Ahmed.
“Real Madrid is a football powerhouse and Emirates set the benchmark for aviation. Both of us are at the top of our game and our global following is immense.
“We are very proud to be associated with the most successful club in the world and will continue to support the team as we have done since 2011.
“This new partnership will bring enormous benefits to the hundreds of millions of Real Madrid fans and La Liga followers and we are looking forward to Real Madrid coming to our home base in the Emirates and Dubai.
“Supporters in the UAE will have the unique opportunity to come and see the best footballers in the world in action in the next edition of the Dubai Football Challenge in January.”
In 2011, Emirates became an official partner of the famed club, which features a host of world-class stars led by Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos and Mesut Ozil, and linked with bringing Spurs star Gareth Bale and Liverpool’s Luis Suarez to the club this summer.
And club president Florentino Perez added: “It’s an important day for Real Madrid. We reinforce and boost one extraordinary alliance for this club in order to fulfil our fans’ dreams.
“Emirates is without doubt the most important airline in the world and this is the start a new era. This key decision is significant for our team and it will allow us to continue competing at the highest level worldwide and face challenges with the determination to succeed as Real Madrid always does.
“Emirates is a perfect partner. The journey has just begun and together we will be stronger and reach the goals we pursue. We hope this alliance will be forever.”
This ambitious move is another clear indication of the airline’s unrivalled standing in sports sponsorship. Just a couple of weeks ago, Emirates confirmed a new five-year shirt deal with French champions Paris Saint-Germain. That agreement was reportedly worth around €25m (Dh118.4m) per year, which was unprecedented in French football.
As well as football’s governing body FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation, Emirates is already a shirt sponsor of other top clubs around Europe, including English Premier League side Arsenal – aligned with a stadium naming rights deal until 2028 – seven-time Champions League winners AC Milan in Italy, German outfit Hamburg and Olympiacos in Greece.
And, following on from established sponsorships in cricket, golf, horse racing and rugby, it has also made major inroads in other sports too recently.
Last month saw Emirates seal a five-year agreement with Roland Garros, making it the official partner of the prestigious French Open tournament. That added to news of being title sponsor for the US Open tennis championships and partner of the ATP World Tour.
In February, the company also announced a five-year branding deal with Formula One.