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Saudi Pro League: Ex-Chelsea ‘stars’ & Liverpool captain headline a sea of £300m mediocrity

The Saudi Pro League has been on a mission to disrupt professional football this summer by throwing around money like confetti.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to Al-Nassr last December was the first of what has become a growing list of ‘big name’ transfers to Saudi Arabia.

Despite handing Ronaldo a mind-boggling salary, Al-Nassr ended last season empty-handed as they were beaten to the title by Al-Ittihad.

However, the club will still believe their outlay is money well spent given the publicity the former Real Madrid forward attracts.

This methodology has continued apace during the summer transfer window, with Saudi clubs currently on track to spend a collective £300 million on new players.

This figure will likely go even higher with several weeks to go before the window closes. The question is, are they getting value for money?

Karim Benzema is undoubtedly the standout name on the list after joining Al-Ittihad from Madrid in June.

The French striker moved on a free transfer but will reportedly be paid more than £172m per year to ply his trade in the Middle East.


While Benzema has earned the right to be called a superstar, there were signs with Madrid last season that he is not quite the force of old.

Despite this, his signing is a coup for the Saudi Pro League. The same cannot be said about most of their other big transfer moves this summer.

Riyad Mahrez will be an exception if he completes his switch from Manchester City to Al-Ahli this summer.

Mahrez produced some excellent performances for City last season and still has the talent to play in any of Europe’s top leagues.

Looking beyond Benzema and Mahrez at the rest of the Saudi summer transfers, the word ‘mediocre’ springs to mind.

Fans of Ruben Neves and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic will argue differently, but it is telling they have never secured moves to Europe’s biggest clubs.

N’Golo Kante and Fabinho are among the players who have previously proved their worth in Europe, yet both are undeniably fading forces.

Underperformers such as Edouard Mendy and Kalidou Koulibaly won’t be missed by Chelsea fans, further highlighting the uninspiring nature of much of the exodus to Saudi.

Mediocrity abounds among the other Saudi acquisitions, with Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson unquestionably the poster boy for this.

Al-Ettifaq will reportedly pay Liverpool £12m to secure his services –  a figure which is approximately £100m more than he is worth.

There have been suggestions in some quarters that Henderson will be paid £700,000 per week in Saudi, although several Liverpool fanboy websites have been at pains to claim it will be far lower.

This reportedly equates to around £350,000 per week which, let’s be honest, is a ridiculous amount of money for a player of Henderson’s limited ability.

For all the talk that the Saudi Pro League is striving to disrupt world football, the bulk of their early transfer business is hugely underwhelming.

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