Clubs in Saudi Arabia have already spent more than £700mn on global top talent.
In less than a year, Saudi Arabia’s multi-billion dollar football powerhouse bet has pulled off with the country inking more superstar talents.
While the Premier League transfer window closed on 1 September, attention has shifted onto the kingdom, where Saudi Pro League clubs are still in business until their transfer window shuts on 7 September.
The jaw-dropping summer transfer window of the Saudi league has witnessed a spending of more than £700mn – ignited by the arrival of famed superstar Cristiano Ronaldo at Al Nassr.
Since then, the floodgates of talent have continued to pour into the Saudi Pro League as the country aims to compete with the heavyweights of the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, and Serie A.
Now, the Saudis are pressing for a deal for Egyptian forward Mohammed Salah, despite his club, Liverpool, stating that the footballer is not for sale.
Over the weekend, Liverpool rejected a total bid of £175mn to give up their celebrated star.
‘A threat to the European game’
However, football commentators have speculated that Liverpool could contemplate a sale if Saudi Arabia continues to pump the price.
“With another week of their window to go, they might just come in and say £200mn and then it’s a worry,” Paul Merson told SkySports.
The former English footballer, manager, and sports television pundit added, “I would say £200m [would be too much to turn down]. I don’t see how you can turn that down for a 31-year-old. That would be irresistible.”
Saudi Arabia’s 7 September deadline has stressed Liverpool fans and head coach Jurgen Klopp.
The German chief publicly voiced his discontent about the difference in deadlines between the two leagues after the heavy interest from Saudi’s side, Al Ittihad.
“The position remains the same, absolutely. No doubt about that. We cannot [sell Salah]. That’s how it is. Nothing else to say,” Klopp said.
“I don’t know how stable [the Saudi Pro League] is or how long it will stay like this, but I think the next two weeks will show how much of a challenge it is because whatever happens there, obviously, nobody (in Europe) can react anymore,” added Klopp.
Klopp warned that UEFA or FIFA should look into Saudi Arabia’s transfer window since it remains open for at least a week after the Premier Leagues’.
“That’s something I think UEFA or whoever should have an eye on to solve that because we all have to protect the game and we want to. We have to make sure with UEFA that these European leagues stay as strong as they are,” Klopp stated.
“We are all a bit surprised still, probably in that sense, by the activity from Saudi Arabia, but a lot of players went there and that improves the league, definitely,” the Liverpool coach expressed.
Widely regarded as one of the best managers in the world, Klopp commented that he sees the Saudi market as more of a threat.
“That is the situation at the moment, and I don’t know where it will lead to, but it seems rather like a threat and a concern than not to be honest, because I can’t see how we really can deny it in these specific moments. But what can we do? Say no, and we can do that, but that’s the difference between the contracts here and the contracts there.”
However to some, the Saudi Pro League has been dismissed as a competitive threat. Aleksander Ceferin, president of European football’s governing body, UEFA, compared the market in Saudi to China.
“They bought players at the end of their careers by offering them a lot of money. Chinese football didn’t develop and didn’t qualify for the World Cup afterwards,” Ceferin said in comparing China to the rising market in Saudi.
“That’s not the right way to do it. They should work on player and coach development, but that’s not my problem,” Ceferin added.
In the 2016-2017 window transfer window, a wave of international football players competed in China.
The country shelled out £331 million in that one window as part of an agenda to make China a football superpower by 2050.
Several Chinese deals lured the talents of Brazil’s Ramires and Hulk, Jackson Martinez and Alex Teixeira, which generated headlines worldwide.
However, the boom in China quickly went to bust, as competitions remained amateurish and the spending by Chinese Super League clubs was ultimately put to a stop by a transfer tax.