Saudi Pro League plot to sign 50 players from Europe’s top leagues, including Liverpool and Man City stars after Cristiano Ronaldo success: Reports
Saudi Pro League reportedly plans to secure more big player deals akin to their coup to sign Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United last December.
Ronaldo moved to Saudi Arabia late year when Saudi Pro League side Al-Nassr snapped him up for a record deal that makes him the highest-paid player in the world.
Recent reports have also linked Ronaldo’s long-time rival Lionel Messi to Saudi Pro League giants Al-Hilalal next summer. The Argentina international is out of contract this June and could join the Middle East league next season. Al-Hilal is already readying an offer that will dwarf Ronaldo’s astronomical earnings at Al Nassr should Messi agree to sign.
Ronaldo’s move to the Middle East has added spice and value to the SPL, which has since struck lucrative broadcasting deals in Italy, Portugal, Austria, Greece, Germany and Switzerland within a month of his arrival.
The SPL doesn’t want to stop there.
According to ESPN, the league wants to improve its marketability and is planning to sign more star players from Europe’s top five leagues.
According to the report, Ronaldo was just the first of up to 50 players SPL clubs plan to target from Europe’s big five leagues this summer. Backed by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Sport, the clubs are zooming in on out-of-contract players across leagues, hoping to bring them to the Middle East this summer.
They have already enquired about players like Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino, Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan, Wolverhampton’s Adama Traore, and Everton duo of Yerry Mina and Abdoulaye Doucoure. These Premier League stars and Lionel Messi are out of contract this summer and are possible targets for SPL clubs at the end of the 2022-23 season.
The SPL rules also allow for an influx of foreign players, meaning there will be little or no administrative restrictions. Currently, each SPL team can have as many as eight non-Saudi players on its books, with seven eligible to be selected for the matchday squad.
Although, as it stands, none of the 16 clubs has fewer than six foreign players, and the majority have their full quota, ESPN reports that this summer will see a rapid uptick in quality with clubs riding the wave of publicity generated by Ronaldo to overhaul their squads.
SPL clubs are also keen on high-profile coaches, with an agent telling ESPN that the Saudi project will be different from what happened in China a few years ago.
“This won’t be like the Chinese league a few years ago,” the source said via ESPN.
“It isn’t a fire-hose strategy of blowing huge sums of money. Saudi Arabia is in a period of rapid transition, and football is a mass participation sport with a huge following, as shown during the World Cup in Qatar, and the ambition is to grow the Saudi Pro League into the best in the region.
“But this isn’t about trying to sign the top 50 players in the world. It is about raising the quality and profile of the league and making it the first-choice destination outside of the big leagues in Europe.”