The Saudi Pro League transfer window is finally shut, with clubs from the country spending a whopping £784.2million over the summer, Reelradio.com.ng gathered.
That is a figure only beaten by the Premier League in terms of outlay by divisions around the world. Remarkably, 87 per cent of those fees were paid by just four clubs Al-Hilal, Al-Ahli, Al-Nassr and Al-Ittihad, all of whom will be challenging for the title.
Among the transfers, 17 bonafide superstars have chosen to move to the Middle East in search of vast riches. French superstar Karim Benzema kicked off the summer of madness by completing a free transfer from Real Madrid to Al-Ittihad at the start of June.
It was a shocking move for the Los Blancos captain, who was set to play a major role for Carlo Ancelotti’s re-charged Galacticos. N’Golo Kante followed his countryman two weeks later, also joining Ittihad on a free transfer from Chelsea.
Kante had been seen as the Premier League’s best defensive midfielder at one stage, winning the division with both Leicester and Chelsea, as well as lifting the World Cup with France in 2018.
The first big-money move came three days after Kante’s transfer, with Ruben Neves joining Al-Hilal for £47m. Soon after, Edouard Mendy, who was seen as one of the Premier League’s best keepers, was sold to Al-Ahli by Chelsea.
It was not only English clubs who Saudi sides targeted though, with Celtic prodigy Jota moving to Al-Ittihad for £25m. He had emerged as one of the brightest young talents in Europe after moving to the Scottish giants, making him a real coup for the Saudis.
Roberto Firmino is at the other end of his career, but was still a threat in the Premier League, with the former Liverpool striker joining Al-Ahli on a free transfer. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, meanwhile, has been linked with a move to Manchester United for several years.
But rather than appearing at Old Trafford, the midfielder opted to join Al-Hilal from Lazio for £34m. One of the most controversial moves was Jordan Henderson’s £12m switch to Al-Ettifaq in July, with the midfielder since facing a major backlash from the LGBT+ community.
The Saudi Pro League’s 17 superstar
Riyad Mahrez – Man City – £30m
Edouard Mendy – Chelsea – £18m
Franck Kessie – Barcelona – £10.7m
Roberto Firmino – Liverpool – Free
Fabinho – Liverpool – £40m
Jota – Celtic – £25m
N’Golo Kante – Chelsea – free
Karim Benzema – Real Madrid – free
Otavio – Porto – £51m
Sadio Mane – Bayern Munich – £24m
Ayemric Laporte – Man City – £23.5m
Yannick Carrasco – Atletico Madrid – £12.8m
Neymar – PSG – £77m
Ruben Neves – Wolves – £47m
Sergei Milinkovic-Savic – Lazio – £34m
Jordan Henderson – Liverpool – £12m
Georgino Wijnaldum – PSG – £7.7m
The day after Henderson’s move, Riyad Mahrez, one of Manchester City’s top attackers, joined Al-Ahli for £30m to complete their mouthwatering attack. Fabinho was the next Premier League star to move, with his £40m move to Ittihad setting up a superstar midfield alongside Kante.
Cristiano Ronaldo was not to be left lonely for long though, with Al-Nassr spending £24m to bring Sadio Mane to the Middle East from Bayern Munich. Franck Kessie starred in AC Milan’s run to winning Serie A in 2022 and ended his struggles at Barcelona by joining Al-Ahli for £10.7m.
The Saudi transfer record was then smashed by Al-Hilal, who completed their summer of spending by signing Brazilian superstar Neymar for £77m from PSG. Another record to be broken was Porto’s record sale, with Al-Nassr shelling out more than £51m to sign former Liverpool target Otavio.