What is Saudi Arabia Aiming to Accomplish by Buying European Star Football Players?
Since the new season of European club football is about to start, teams have already begun training. Bringing new changes and improving the squad are highly being drilled into their training sessions, ever since the Saudi Pro League clubs started topping headlines given the ongoing transfer scenario. The main headlines being Saudi Pro League clubs making a transfer bid for every star player nowadays. Particularly after the move of Cristiano Ronaldo to Al-Nassr, a lot of professionals started to think that it could be a good idea after all. Not to mention the exorbitant amount of fee and wages offered to these players makes it quite the challenge to refuse. The reason is that Saudi Pro clubs’ offers are more than what these players earned in their former clubs, as they don’t have any financial restraints.
The signing of Cristiano Ronaldo is the biggest moment in the Saudi Pro League ever. Many teams, particularly in Europe, had intentions to sign the Portuguese international. Ronaldo, on the other hand, took the decision to move to the Middle East and is presently enjoying his football in Saudi Arabia.
Soon after Christano’s move followed Karim Benzema who recently joined the Saudi League. The Frenchman was offered a large sum of money, which he quickly accepted. Another prominent star traveling to Saudi Arabia is N'Golo Kante.
The Public Investment Fund (PIF), which owns Newcastle United, recently made a significant investment in the Saudi Pro League. They invested and now own 75 percent of Al Ittihad, Al Hali, Al-Nassr, and Al Hilal.
An Important Move to its Global Political and Economic Standing?
According to reports, Saudi Arabia intends to increase revenue from the football league and elevate it to the top ten leagues in the world. Saudi clubs are not subject to any expenditure restrictions. This implies they may pay big wages, and could entice players to relocate to the Middle East.
Additionally reports claim that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salem has begun a privatization strategy centered on football clubs. Companies and development agencies can invest in or take over clubs under this concept.
Saudi Arabia has also submitted an application to host the FIFA World Cup 2030. With Qatar hosting the 2022 edition, Saudi Arabia hopes to make history as well.
With the league drawing great players, it appears that the Middle Eastern nation is rapidly rising in football. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sees sports as an important aspect of the country's wider effort to improve its worldwide political and economic standing.
Since Saudi Pro League teams do not often play in the Champions League or face teams like Barcelona and Real Madrid, they sought another option to develop their line-ups. Offering significant sums of money for stars who are yet to reach the pinnacle of their careers improves the league's image as well as the competitive atmosphere amongst teams. This will attract additional players to join the league, such as Neves, Edouard Mendy, and Hakim Ziyech. Bringing in Ronaldo and Benzema, both Ballon d'Or winners, will demonstrate to other older players that the Saudi Pro League is a genuine choice for an ultimate destination like the MLS or Chinese Super League.
Who are the Top Europea Players in Saudi Arabia?
Even before Ronaldo arrived, Ever Banega at Al-Shabab, Talisca at Al-Nassr, Luiz Gustavo, David Ospina, Alvaro Gonzalez, and Pity Martinez were all already competing in Saudi Arabia. Additionally, Al-Ahli's Boudebouz, Modou Barrow, and Ezgjan Alioski, who had recently returned from exile in the second division, Al-Hilal's Moussa Marega, Matheus Pereira, and Andre Carillo, and champions Al-Ittihad, who were captained by Nuno with a roster that included Ahmed Hegazi, won their first championship since 2009.
The talent may not yet be distributed evenly across all of the teams in the league, but the goal is to have a select group of competitive teams compete for the championship each year, with the four star magnets serving as the major competitors in subsequent championship matches.
For European footballers, the competition and spirit of rivalry between teams may make the Saudi Pro League more appealing than other leagues recognized for paying high salaries but lacking in football culture.
To Increase Tourism?
Football is very popular in Saudi Arabia - they were the best supported team at last year's Qatar World Cup, and their team beat eventual champions Argentina in the group stages - and they see it as a means to increase tourism to the kingdom.
The Saudi leaders saw all of this enthusiasm and are said to think that they would rather keep the profits earned from their population’s passions by others within their borders instead. It wishes to place itself on the map and increase its profile.
Amnesty International (AI) Amnesty International has accused Saudi Arabia of engaging in ‘sportswashing’ in order to conceal its ‘extremely poor human rights record’.
According to Human Rights Watch, "Saudi Arabia spends billions of dollars hosting major entertainment, cultural, and sporting events to deflect attention away from the country's poor human rights record."
Human Rights Watch said in its 2022 World Report that while certain improvements had been planned in Saudi Arabia, "ongoing repression and contempt for basic rights are major barriers to progress."
Goals to Score Hereafter
Saudi Arabia beat eventual winners Argentina in the group stage before going out valiantly under Herve Renard in the 2022 World Cup. The goal for the following three years will be to build on that foundation and become even more competitive by 2026, with the possibility of winning the Asian title on home soil in 2027. Saudi Arabia, along with Greece and Egypt, is expected to bid to host the World Cup in 2030.
It will be interesting to watch which country is chosen to host the FIFA World Cup in 2030. Saudi Arabia and the Saudi Pro League are now in the news. They intend to develop football in their country and establish one of the top leagues in the world.