With a view to hosting the 2030 FIFA World Cup, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is leaving no stone unturned. The Public Investment Funds are continuing to make waves in world football. Firstly, the PIF consortium took over an ailing Newcastle United to give them a surge back to Champions League football within two years. Now, they are taking the football world by storm with many of the Saudi clubs snapping up superstars and making the Saudi Pro League lucrative and amongst the most-talked-about football leagues in recent months.
Saudi Pro League is making waves in the world of international football. After snapping one of the greatest footballers of all time Cristiano Ronaldo, the Saudi clubs are looking to bring in more superstars and make their league one of the most watched in the football world.
In this article, we will be looking at the top footballers who will be plying their trade in Saudi Arabian clubs this season.
Who is joining the Saudi football league?
8. Edouard Mendy (Chelsea to Al Ahli)
Chelsea’s 2021-22 saviour Edouard Mendy is set to depart from the club. After spending over 2 years at The Blues, Mendy wants a new challenge. Also, it is reported that Chelsea has finally agreed to a £16m deal with Al Ahli for the Senegal international.
Mendy, who arrived at Chelsea in September 2020 quickly became their number-one shot-stopper with the Senegal international helping The Blues to lift the UEFA Champions League trophy. At Chelsea, Mendy played a key role in the 2020/21 UEFA Champions League win, which saw him crowned The Best FIFA Men’s Goalkeeper in Europe that year.
With Mendy not getting enough playtime, it was widely expected the Senegalese international is looking for a club which gets him regular playing time.
7. Ruben Neves (Wolverhampton Wolves to Al Hilal)
This was a shocking move. Ruben Neves, one of the best midfielders in world football currently has announced that he will be playing for Al Hilal this season.
The Wolves captain leaves the club after six seasons for a “record fee” reported to be around £55m. Surely, this is the most expensive signing made by any of the Saudi clubs. The Portuguese midfielder is set to pocket almost €18.36 million per year, a significant rise from his €57,632 per week salary at Molineux.
Neves was the backbone of the Wolves’ midfield as the Portuguese appeared for 219 games and scored 27 goals. His magic in the midfield will be of prime importance at Al Hilal.
6. Hakim Ziyech (Chelsea to Al Nassr)
Ziyech wants out of Chelsea. It is a well-known fact. Well, Chelsea’s negotiation saga with Paris St. Germain last season was quite infamous. Now, as the Saudi Pro League is bringing a lot of superstars, it is widely reported that Hakim Ziyech is also en route to Saudi Arabia.
Ziyech, who was quite magical during his time at Ajax, didn’t quite live up to his expectations at Chelsea. The winger played a total of 60 games in three seasons at The Blues. If everything goes well, Ziyech will be teaming up with his Chelsea teammate Kalidou Koulibaly and Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.
5. N’Golo Kante (Chelsea to Al Ittihad)
Another Chelsea player bites the dust. Chelsea’s defensive wall N’Golo Kante has decided to part ways with The Blues. The 32-year-old is out of contract this summer and is being reported to have extensive talks with the Saudi Pro League champions Al Ittihad.
Regarded as one of the finest central midfielders of the modern era, Kante played a significant role in helping Leicester City achieve the impossible in 2015/16, when they won the Premier League title, before replicating that success at Chelsea 12 months later.
Kante also played significant roles in Chelsea’s Europa League and Champions League successes in 2018/19 and 2020/21, while he has appeared in nine other cup finals for the club.
4. Kalidou Koulibaly (Chelsea to Al Hilal)
Seems like Chelsea is off-lading players in bulk. After heavy spending last season, the club is looking to balance their tally sheets by letting go of some players who don’t fit their future plans.
Senegal captain Kalidou Koulibaly, who joined Chelsea from Napoli just last year has announced of leaving the club. The centre-back has announced a move to the Saudi club Al Hilal.
Koulibaly, widely regarded as one of the most talented centre-backs was a flop at Chelsea. During his time at Chelsea, he was plagued with injuries and couldn’t quite gather enough game time to have momentum on his side.
Kalidou Koulibaly will be joined by a list of footballers including Marco Verratti, Demarai Gray and Ruben Neves.
3. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool to Al Ahli)
Liverpool’s out-of-favour attacking man Roberto Firmino aka Bobby Firmino is widely tipped to join Saudi club Al Ahli. Firmino, who spent eight seasons at Anfield, saw his form fluctuating quite often during his time at the club.
The forward signed from 1899 Hoffenheim arrived at Anfield with quite a fanfare. However, he couldn’t repeat his heroics at Hoffenheim. In a total of 256 games, the forward cum attacking midfielder scored 82 goals.
Now with Liverpool looking for better-attacking options in the market seems like Firmino’s time at Liverpool is over.
Saudi Pro League is bringing big superstars to their league, ensuring it gets as many eyeballs as possible. And it’s not just the players they are targeting. The Saudi clubs are also targeting the biggest managers from the world of football. As per a report, Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri has received an offer to take charge of either Al Nassr or Al Hilal. Similarly, an offer has been made to Wolves boss Julen Lopetegui and Fulham boss Marco Silva.
2. Neymar Jr. ( PSG to Al Hilal)
Paris St. Germain is rubbing their star players the wrong way. After Lionel Messi departed for Major League Soccer club Inter Miami, it is expected that Neymar Jr., their star signing from 2018 is set to leave the French club.
The 31-year-old superstar has been injured for most of the season, and reports say that Brazil international could be on a move away from Paris this summer, with Saudi’s Al Hilal one of the sides interested in securing the sensation.
Overall, Neymar has played 112 games for Paris St. Germain amassing 82 goals in those matches. He has been a vital cog in PSG’s attack for the last five seasons.
1. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid to Al Ittihad)
The current Ballon d’Or holder Karim Benzema has successfully completed his move from Real Madrid to Saudi Pro League champions Al Ittihad. The French striker signed a three-year deal worth $107 million a year.
Benzema has been iconic for Real Madrid. After living in Cristiano Ronaldo’s shadows for the majority of his professional career, Benzema came into his own after Ronaldo departed for Juventus. He reached his peak during the 2021-22 season, being adjudged as the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award for that campaign and also won the 2022 Ballon d’Or. He is also second in Real Madrid’s all-time scoring list with 350 goals.
Overall, Benzema won four La Liga titles with Real Madrid, along with five UEFA Champions League titles. During the 2021-22 UCL season, he was talismanic for his side as they claimed the trophy in a dramatic manner. He also won three Copa del Reys, three Supercopa de Espana titles, four UEFA Super Cup trophies and five FIFA Club World Cups.