Saudi Arabia’s Pro League has been making the headlines in the world of football in recent months. In December 2022, Christiano Ronaldo transferred to Saudi Arabia club Al Nassr after leaving his former club Manchester United. On top of this, Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kante Filipe and even coaches like Steven Gerrard are making the transition.
As a result, people are discussing whether European teams could be at risk. With the continent being crowned amongst the best for the world-famous sport, should it be worried? It looks like fans will need to bring out their home kits to go the extra mile to spur on their teams. Here’s what you need to know.
How did the Saudi football migration start?
This summer has seen a significant number of transfers to clubs in Saudi Arabia. It started with Benzema at the start of June, who has signed a two-year contract worth €400 million. From there, more and more players have transferred, including:
- N’Golo Kante (Chelsea to Al Ittihad)
- Ruben Neves (Wolverhampton Wanderers to Al Hilal)
- Kalidou Koulibaly (Chelsea to Al Hilal)
- Edouard Mendy (Chelsea to Al Ahli)
- Mercelo Brozovic (Inter Milan to Al Nassr)
- Jota (Celtic to Al Itihad)
- Roberto Firmino (Liverpool to Al Ahli)
- Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Lazio to Al Hilal)
On 3rd July, Steven Gerrard signed on as the new manager of Al Ettifaq, and several other coaches have joined various other Pro League clubs in Saudi Arabia.
Players who have been approached but have rejected offers include Lionel Messi, Jame Vardy and more. Jose Mourinho was also approached to coach at Al Ahli, however, he rejected the offer.
Is history repeating itself?
Many are discussing how these recent trends align with what has happened in the past, most notably with the Chinese Super League. After spending significant amounts, the Chinese government chose to reign in their approach due to huge amounts of money leaving the country and going straight to the sport and its players.
Eventually, after this transfer window, which took place between 2016 and 2017, authorities implemented a ‘transfer tax’ and salary caps on foreign football signings. And while they may look similar on the surface, Saudi Arabia claims to have a more comprehensive strategy in mind in their mission to shake up global football.
Is UEFA right to dismiss it?
In light of recent events, some have raised concerns about whether European clubs should feel threatened. This has been emphasised by UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin. He believes the country is taking a large risk by investing in players in the final chapters of their footballing careers.
What are your thoughts on the events of this summer? Do you think Europe should be worried about the Saudi Arabia Pro League? Leave your comments below!