The lure of lucrative contracts continues to entice star names to the Saudi Pro League this summer.
At the start of the summer, Karim Benzema and N’Golo Kante joined defending champions Al Ittihad, Senegal goalkeeper Edouard Mendy signed for Al Ahli, and former Chelsea teammate Kalidou Koulibaly joined rivals Al Hilal. Since then, the transfers have continued.
Marcelo Brozovic moved to Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al Nassr, Roberto Firmino completed a free transfer move to Al Ahli after leaving Liverpool, while Serbian star Sergej Milinkovic-Savic accepted a sensational move to Al Hilal.
The Liverpool connection will be present elsewhere in the Saudi Pro League next season, with Fabinho moving to Al Ittihad, and captain Jordan Henderson linking up with former Reds and England captain Steven Gerrard in his new role at Al Ettifaq. And Mo Salah is next on the Saudi wish-list, with Al-Ittihad reportedly preparing an offer in excess of £200m for the Egyptian.
The biggest confirmed move to the Saudi Pro League so far has come via Al Hilal’s swoop on Paris Saint-Germain to sign world transfer record holder Neymar, as part of a sensational transfer deal.
The Sporting News looks at the biggest transfers to Saudi Arabia so far.
Star transfers to Saudi Arabia
Anderson Talisca was one of the first well-known names to join the Saudi Pro League. He moved to Al Nassr following a few years in China.
Cristiano Ronaldo then helped the league gain a lot more traction as he left Man United to also join Al Nassr after the 2022 FIFA World Cup. He helped them gain a lot more viewers and showed the Saudi Pro League hierarchy they can attract big names. He’s since been joined by Sadio Mane, signed from Bayern Munich by Al Nassr.
Ballon d’Or holder Benzema will earn £84m ($107m) per year for three years at Al Ittihad. World Cup winner Kante will reportedly make £67.6m ($86m) per year across his four-year contract.
Al Hilal’s £47.1m ($60m) move for Ruben Neves from Premier League side Wolves set a new transfer record for the league in June but that benchmark was later broken by former Barcelona winger Malcom.
That was again smashed by Neymar, as the Brazil international completed his move from Paris to Riyadh, for a reported fee of £76.9m ($97.8m).
|Player||New Club||Transfer fee||Date Joined|
|Gini Wijnaldum||Al Ettifaq||£7.7m ($9.7m)||September, 2023|
|Yassine Bounou||Al Hilal||£10.2m ($13m)||August, 2023|
|Aleksandar Mitrovic||Al Hilal||£45m ($57m)||August, 2023|
|Otavio||Al Nassr||£51.4m ($65m)||August, 2023|
|Aymeric Laporte||Al Nassr||£23.5m ($29.8m)||August, 2023|
|Neymar Jr||Al Hilal||£76.9m ($97.8m)||August, 2023|
|Habib Diallo||Al Shabab||£15.3m ($19.4m)||August, 2023|
|Fabinho||Al Ittihad||£35.9m ($45.6m)||August, 2023|
|Roger Ibanez||Al Ahli||£25.6m ($32.6m)||August, 2023|
|Franck Kessie||Al Ahli||£10.6m ($13.4m)||August, 2023|
|Sadio Mane||Al Nassr||£24m ($30m)||August, 2023|
|Allan Saint-Maximin||Al Ahli||£23m ($29.3m)||July, 2023|
|Riyad Mahrez||Al Ahli||£30m ($38.6m)||July, 2023|
|Jordan Henderson||Al Ettifaq||£12m ($15.6m)||July, 2023|
|Malcom||Al Hilal||£51.5m ($66.9m)||July, 2023|
|Romain Saiss||Al Sadd||£2.2m ($2.8m)||July, 2023|
|Alex Telles||Al Nassr||Free||July, 2023|
|Seko Fofana||Al Nassr||£21.6m ($27.8m)||July, 2023|
|Sergej Milinkovic-Savic||Al Hilal||£34.2m ($44.6m)||July, 2023|
|Roberto Firmino||Al Ahli||Free||July, 2023|
|Marcelo Brozovic||Al Nassr||£15.4m ($19.6m)||July, 2023|
|Jota||Al Ittihad||£25m ($31.7m)||July, 2023|
|Edouard Mendy||Al Ahli||£16m ($20.2m)||June, 2023|
|Karim Benzema||Al Ittihad||Free||June, 2023|
|N’Golo Kante||Al Ittihad||Free||June, 2023|
|Ruben Neves||Al Hilal||£47.1m ($60m)||June, 2023|
|Kalidou Koulibaly||Al Hilal||£15.7m ($20m)||June, 2023|
|Cristiano Ronaldo||Al Nassr||Free||January, 2023|
|Anderson Talisca||Al Nassr||£6.9m ($8.8m)||July, 2021|
Other stars linked to Saudi Arabia transfer
Earlier in the summer, Al-Hilal made a €300m (£259.2m/$332.6m) bid for Paris St-Germain talisman Mbappe, according to Fabrizio Romano. The French giants were open to selling the France captain if he does not sign an extension to his contract, which expires in 2024 – but the player rejected a move.
Now, it’s Liverpool superstar Salah whose name is top of the wish-list of Al-Ittihad with the Saudi league looking to exploit the fact their transfer window remains open for longer than most European leagues.
???? ????????????????????????????????: Al-Ittihad are preparing to launch a world-record £215m bid for Mo Salah to test Liverpool’s resolve one final time. ????????
The belief is that because the Saudi Pro League transfer window closes on Thursday, it gives Al-Ittihad plenty of time to sign the most… pic.twitter.com/voKMjLZCfO
— Transfer News Live (@DeadlineDayLive) September 5, 2023
Former AC Milan and Valencia head coach Gennaro Gattuso has turned down offers to make the move despite being contacted directly by the Saudi Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman, while Fulham’s Marco Silva is also understood to have turned down the move.
International stars on Saudi Pro League teams
- Al Ittihad: Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kante, Romarinho, Jota, Fabinho
- Al Nassr: Cristiano Ronaldo, Anderson Talisca, David Ospina, Marcelo Brozovic, Alex Telles, Seko Fofana, Sadio Mane, Aymeric Laporte
- Al Hilal: Ruben Neves, Moussa Marega, Kalidou Koulibaly, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Malcom, Neymar, Aleksandar Mitrovic
- Al Shabab: Ever Banega, Grzegorz Krychowiak
- Al Fateh: Cristian Tello
- Abha: Felipe Caicedo
- Al Ahli: Edouard Mendy, Roberto Firmino, Riyad Mahrez, Allan Saint-Maximin, Gabriel Veiga, Frank Kessie
- Al Sadd: Romain Saiss
- Al Ettifaq: Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum, Moussa Dembele