While the Chinese competition once brought a number of major players to its rivals, Saudi Arabia is taking a more serious approach by wooing the absolute top players with Saudi money. First, Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Sadio Mane moved to the Saudi League, and now Neymar is also leaving for Al Hilal.
According to French media, the Brazilian star will receive approximately 160 million euros over two seasons. Neymar, 31, was no longer having fun at his club Paris Saint-Germain and decided to choose money instead of a new sporting adventure. Al Hilal is said to be putting around 90 million euros on the table.
The driving force behind all these high-profile European transfers is the Saudi Public Investment Fund. The government fund owns the four largest clubs in the Saudi Professional League, and is supervised by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The man who also became co-owner of Newcastle United.
The Saudi League is making a number of changes this season. For example, each club may not have seven, but eight foreign players under contract. The competition will also be expanded from sixteen to eighteen participating teams. According to Bin Salman, the three hundred best football players in the world should play in the oil state in the short term.
Saudi Arabia’s growing influence in football is not limited to the sport of football. In golf, several top international players were also bought away from the PGA Tour last year, and what about the Jeddah Street Circuit Grand Prix in Formula 1? Now that Jumbo-Visma is looking for a new main sponsor, the Saudi city of NEOM (a major architectural scheme) has been mentioned as one of the options to take over the cycling team.
Below are all the most important transfers from Saudi League clubs.
- Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City)
- Roger Ibanez (Roma)
- Allan Saint-Maximin (Newcastle United)
- Edouard Mendy (Chelsea)
- Franck Kessie (Barcelona)
- Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)
- Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
- Fabinho (Liverpool)
- N’Golo Kante (Chelsea)
- Jota (Celtic)
- Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
- Marcelo Brozovic (Inter Milan)
- Seiko Fofana (RC lens)
- Alex Telles (Manchester United)
- Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)
- Habib Diallo (Strasbourg)
Al Hilal Club
- Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain)
- Malcolm (Zenit)
- Ruben Neves (Wolverhampton)
- Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Lazio)
- Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli)
Al Ittifaq Club
- Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)
- Jack Hendry (Club Brugge, Belgium)
- Moussa Dembele (Olympique Lyonnais)
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