Saudi clubs signing on Premier league stars
The Saudi clubs signing on Premier League stars has become more in these past days, as many players are moving towards Saudi Arabia. The 26-year-old Wolves captain Ruben Neves join Al-Hilal for £47m, a record for the Molineux club. And Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy is the latest big European name heavily linked with a deal to join the Saudi Pro League.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and N’Golo Kante have already signed up – marquee names but near the end of their career – and there was speculation as Lionel Messi had joined US club Inter Miami.
But a growing number of players at their peak are attracting interest too, including two other Chelsea players in Kalidou Koulibaly and Hakim Ziyech, plus Arsenal’s Thomas Partey.
on the Other hand, Arsenal and Man City are in a race for signing West Ham’s Declan Rice. It underlines the league’s ambition to be one of the top five in the world. Neville, though, is among those asking what all this potential activity means.
In June, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which owns Newcastle United, confirmed it was taking over four leading clubs in the country, including Al-Nassr, who signed Ronaldo in December.
There is uncertainty over whether PIF holds a stake in Chelsea’s ultimate owners, the private equity firm Clearlake Capital, although club sources have rejected suggestions of any direct involvement. As Neville is not sure about the players moving towards Saudi Clubs, it seems to be more players are moving towards Saudi pro League.
“The Premier League should put an instant embargo on transfers to Saudi Arabia to ensure the integrity of the game isn’t being damaged,” Neville told on an interview.
“Checks should be made on the appropriateness of the transactions. “If it comes through that process, obviously transfers could open up again. But I do believe, at this moment in time, transfers should be halted until you look into the ownership structure at Chelsea and whether there are beneficial transfer dealings that are improper.”
“The league is well established, going since the 1970s, and clubs have a real fanbase who care about football which makes it authentic and not artificial,” a senior league source on interview.
“When it happened in China, it wasn’t explicitly government money. It was about encouraging entrepreneurs to do things. Then that stopped.
“Here the funding is more secure and part of a long-term plan. The clubs are well established in the local communities and football across the country is by far the number one sport.
“Although the league has a fair amount of foreign players, it’s the big stars who get you worldwide TV coverage. As soon as Ronaldo came in, the league started to be shown in every major market. It gets that immediate attention.
“The announcement that the top four clubs will be 75% owned by PIF, rather than by the state, turns them into a proper business. It is not just about bringing in top players but also about changing the economy of the game here to make it more private sector and develop clubs and companies and brands.
“The Ronaldo transfer proved it can happen. It is one thing to say ‘we are going to sign the best players in the world’ but for someone of Ronaldo’s status to actually come, live in Riyadh and play every game, was a surprise to people and showed we could get other people to come.”
Europe’s best players move to Saudi pro league
For European football, the rise of the Saudi Pro League presents a challenge. Losing key players is not a new experience – China and Major League Soccer have tempted stars away in the past. However, the departure of players in their prime, such as Neves, is a concern. If they try to compete over an extended period, it would materially impact clubs’ biggest outlay – salaries.
Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin doesn’t see it that way. “It’s mainly a mistake for Saudi Arabian football,” he told on interview. “They should invest in academies, bring their own coaches and develop their own players.
“The system of buying players that are almost at the end of their career is not the system that develops football. It was a similar mistake in China when they all brought players who are at the end of their career.
“It’s not only about money. Players want to win top competitions. And the top competition is in Europe.”