• Saturday, May 18, 2024
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BusinessDay

Saudi Pro League: From financial inducement to football development

Since the start of the Summer transfer window early July, the global focus has been on the rise of the Saudi Pro League as a prefered destination for footballers in top European leagues.

The Saudi Pro League is not just attracting players at the peak of their footballing careers, rather they are recruiting the best of European players and coaches.

Backed by a $620 billion Public Investment Fund (PIF), the Saudi government has been clear about their intent to move the dessert nation’s economy away from oil.

Since the capture of Cristiano Ronaldo by Al Nassr, the Saudi Pro League has witnessed the busiest Summer transfer traffic with some of the biggest names on record.

Al Nassr is currently ban by FIFA from registering new players until they settle a debt with Leicester City. However, the Pro League side can still sign new players but not register them to play until outstanding debts are paid by the club.

Read also: MLS: Inter Miami, Lionel Messi and the football equity investment

Currently done deals include Karim Benzema from Real Madrid to Al Ittihad (Free transfer) for a two-year contract worth €400million ($436m) that was announced on June 8.

N’Golo Kante, also signed for Al Ittihad as a free agent from Chelsea in a deal worth €86m ($109.78m) per year throughout his four-year deal with the Jeddah-based club. While Ruben Neves signed three-year deal worth €55m ($60m) from Wolverhampton Wanderers to Al Hilal.

Other done deals are Kalidou Koulibaly, Chelsea to Al Hilal (£17m, $21.61m); Edouard Mendy, Chelsea to Al Ahli (£16m, $21m); Marcelo Brozovic, Inter Milan to Al Nassr (€18m, $20m); Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Lazio to Al Hilal (€40m, $44m); Jota, Celtic to Al Ittihad (£25m, $31.7m); Roberto Firmino, Liverpool to Al Ahli (Free transfer), and Seko Fofana, from Lens to Al Nassr (€25m, $28m).

It is also believed that some talks are ongoing and might materialised before the close of the Summer transfer window.

Notable among them is the duo of Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson, Fabinho to Al Ettifaq and Al Ittihad respectively. Liverpool have given Fabinho permission to undergo a medical and move ahead, and as such left him out of their travelling party for their preseason training camp in Germany after reportedly receiving an offer of £40m from Al Ittihad for the midfielder.

Others are Alex Telles, from Manchester United to Al Nassr for a fee of €4mi ($4.4m); Riyad Mahrez, from Manchester City to Al Ahli on a three-year contract (with an option to extend) worth €35m ($39m), while Fulham have rejected an initial bid from Al Hilal of €30m ($33m) to sign their top scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic.