The 2023 summer transfer window was exceptional. Many players, including the high-profile ones, left European clubs and joined the Saudi Pro League – a top-tier division in Saudi Arabia.
Remember when Cristiano Ronaldo moved to Al Nassr? Well, that was just the start.
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What’s Happening Now?
Right now, almost every team in the Saudi Pro League boasts international players. It’s all part of a big push to amp up football in Saudi Arabia and make their league a hot ticket. But why are players so ready to jump ship from Europe?
Follow the Money
It’s all about the dollars. Take Rúben Neves. He used to pull in $5 million a year with Wolves. In Saudi Arabia? He’s raking in a cool $15.1 million. And Aleksandar Mitrovic? He’s now earning a whopping $21 million annually with Al Hilal, including bonuses.
Easier Playing Field
Compared to the top 5 European leagues, the competition in the Saudi Pro League is low. Even though Saudi teams have made it to the World Cup twice in a row, they’re still finding their feet. European players are digging the vibe, plus the awesome pay doesn’t hurt.
The Best Years Have Already Passed
Jordan Henderson and Roberto Firmino passed the mark of 30. They could have maintained their levels for some time but decided to join the Saudi Pro League. They are always in the starting 11, without any doubt.
Another great example is Karim Benzema. The Ballon d’Or winner had phenomenal seasons with Real Madrid, and even at 35, he was the club’s top player alongside Vinicius Junior. However, the age had its toll, and the French forward moved to Al Ittihad.
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More Big Moves on the Horizon?
Looks like this trend isn’t slowing down. The conditions and contracts they provide to European players are too hard to reject. And yes, luxury cars are part of the package!
For instance, the Brazilian star Neymar already inked a deal with Al Hilal for a mind-blowing $300 million. A lot of European footballers will likely be offered the same.
What Does This Mean for European Football?
As Liverpool’s head coach, Jürgen Klopp, noted, European football was “vulnerable” to threats from Saudi Arabia. Rich teams from Saudi have all the means to sign top players from Europe, especially when the transfer window runs longer.
Indeed, the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo was a turning point, and in the future, we might see some regulations coming to protect the essence of fair play.
Wrapping It Up
The Saudi Pro League is becoming a magnet for European football stars. The big bucks, a more relaxed playing field, and new opportunities, especially for veteran players, are too good to pass up.
What do you think? Will this change the game for European football?