During the just-concluded summer transfer window, a significant new player entered the market and made a huge impact worldwide.
The Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia acquired four prominent clubs – Al-Ittihad, Al-Ahli, Al-Nassr and Al-Hilal – and invested heavily in signing players from Europe to boost the Saud Pro League’s profile.
The arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo in January had already helped raise interest in the league.
However, the PIF followed it up with a blockbuster summer transfer window that could rival even the Premier League in terms of big-name signings.
We analyse ten of the biggest Saudi League transfers this summer.
Sadio Mane to Al-Nassr – €30 million
Senegal captain Sadio Mane joined Bayern Munich last summer to replace Robert Lewandowski, but his time at the Bavarian club was a forgettable experience.
After failing to live up to expectations in Germany, Bayern tried to force him out. With no European suitors, Mane headed to Saudi Arabia to join Al-Nassr for €30 million.
Mane has started the Saudi adventure on fire, forming an excellent partnership with Ronaldo.
Riyad Mahrez to Al-Ahli – €35 million
After a trophy-laden six-year spell at Manchester City, Algerian winger Riyad Mahrez moved to the Saudi Pro League to join Al-Ahli.
The 32-year-old has already bagged two goals and two assists in five games, adapting seamlessly to his new environment.
Gabri Veiga to Al-Ahli – €40 million
One of the most surprising moves of the summer saw highly sought-after youngster Gabri Veiga join Al-Ahli from Celta Vigo.
The Spaniard had interest from Napoli, Chelsea, Liverpool and many other clubs but chose to move to Saudi Arabia, much to the chagrin of the very opinionated Toni Kroos.
Sergej Milinkovic-Savic to Al-Hilal – €40 million
Serbian midfield general Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has been one of the best midfielders in Serie A over the past three years.
Many people expected him to move to a top club in Italy, but he opted to join Al-Hilal. Milinkovic-Savic is enjoying his time in the Gulf nation, notching two goals and three assists.
Fabinho to Al-Ittihad – €46.7 million
Brazilian midfielder Fabinho had been anchoring Liverpool’s midfield for years, playing a crucial role in their recent successes.
However, the former AS Monaco man moved to the Saudi Pro League this summer to join reigning champions Al-Ittihad.
Aleksandar Mitrovic to Al-Hilal – €52.6 million
Al-Hilal pursued Mitrovic relentlessly and broke Fulham’s resolve. The Serbian has been the Cottagers’ talisman for years, bagging goals in the Championship and Premier League.
Al-Hilal splashed the cash to sign the powerful Serbian centre-forward, and he is already paying dividends on the pitch with four goals and one assist in three games.
Ruben Neves to Al-Hilal – €55 million
Al-Hilal signed Ruben Neves from Wolverhampton Wanderers in one of the earlier Saudi transfer moves.
The Portuguese midfielder was their captain and one of their best players, but the Saudi club snapped him up as a statement of intent.
Malcom to Al-Hilal – €60 million
After a poor season in Barcelona, Malcom moved to Zenit St Petersburg, where he rebuilt his reputation.
He bagged 23 goals and seven assists in 27 Russian Premier League games last season, earning the attention of Al-Hilal as they shelled €55 million to sign the Brazilian winger.
Otavio to Al-Nassr – €55 million
In one of the most surprising moves, Otavio moved to the Middle East to join Al-Nassr as they activated his release clause with FC Porto.
Otavio has been a standout player in the Primeira Liga over the past seasons and will be sorely missed by the Portuguese giants.
Neymar to Al-Hilal – €90 million
Brazilian attacker Neymar decided to leave Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain this summer after a topsy-turvy six years in the French capital.
Al-Hilal submitted a record €90 million to sign him and Neymar is now the player with the most cumulative transfer fees.
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