Football stars flock to Saudi Arabian league

Football stars flock to Saudi Arabian league

Popular players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Sadio Mane, N'Golo Kante, Roberto Firmino, Riyad Mahrez join Saudi Arabian clubs

By Mutlu Demirtastan

ISTANBUL (AA) - The big-budget transfer wind has turned its route to Saudi Arabia this year.

The Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund took over 75 % of Al-Ahli, Al-Hilal, Al-Ittihad and Al-Nassr clubs, with its large budget allocated to football.

Saudi Arabia, which has invested heavily in football with the aim of becoming one of the best leagues in the world, left its mark on the summer transfer window.

With high fees, these teams signed many top players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Sadio Mane, Karim Benzema, N'Golo Kante, Ruben Neves, Roberto Firmino and Riyad Mahrez.

- Ronaldo lights the first spark

Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo made the name of the Saudi Arabian league heard with his transfer move to Al-Nassr in December 2022.

It was claimed that the annual wage of the 38-year-old would reach €200 million ($219 million).

Despite global criticism, many players followed the footsteps of the Portuguese star and took the road to Saudi Arabia.

Al-Nassr, which is coached by Portuguese Luis Castro, acquired Sadio Mane from Bayern Munich for €30 million ($32.8 million), Lens's Seko Fofana for €25 million ($27.3 million), Inter's Marcelo Brozovic for €18 million ($19.7 million), and Manchester United's Alex Telles for €7 million ($7.6 million).

- Summer transfer window flares up with Benzema transfer

The summer transfer window flared up after Real Madrid's French striker Karim Benzema signed for the reigning champion Al-Ittihad.

In addition to Benzema, Al-Ittihad signed French N'Golo Kante from Chelsea, Brazilian Fabinho from Liverpool and Portuguese Jota from Celtic.

Portuguese head coach Nuno Espirito Santo's Al-Ittihad paid €46 million ($50 million) for Fabinho and €29 million ($31.7 million) for Jota.

Kante became one of the most paid player with an annual salary of €100 million ($109.4 million).

- Transfers of Jorge Jesus' Al-Hilal

Portuguese coach Jorge Jesus' Al-Hilal acquired Brazilian Malcom from Zenit for €60 million ($65.6 million), Portuguese Neves from Wolverhampton for €55 million ($60 million), Milinkovic-Savic for €40 million ($43.7 million) from Lazio, and Senegalese Koulibaly from Chelsea for €23 million ($25 million).

- Al-Ahli invest in attacking

German coach Matthias Jaissle's Al-Ahli, acquired Algerian Riyad Mahrez from Manchester City for €35 million ($38 million), Newcastle United's French Allan Saint-Maximin for €27 million ($29.5 million), and Chelsea's Senegalese Edouard Mendy for €18.5 million ($20 million).

They also signed Liverpool's Brazilian attacker Roberto Firmino for free.

On the other hand, British coach Steven Gerrard's Al-Ittifak bought English Jordan Henderson from Liverpool for €14 million ($15.3 million) and Olympique Lyon French Moussa Dembele for free.

- Messi, Mbappe reject Saudi Arabian league

Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi and French star Kylian Mbappe claimed to have turned down astronomical offers from the Saudi Arabian league.

It was claimed that Al-Hilal offered an annual salary of €500 million ($547 million) to Messi and €1 billion ($1.1 billion) to Mbappe.

*Writing by Selcuk bugra Gokalp

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