In reaction to the recent hefty offers made by Saudi teams to top-aged European players, UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin has expressed concerns about the impact on their leagues, labelling these moves “a mistake.”
The Saudi-Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) – which owns a majority 80% stake in Premier League Club, Newcastle United and having acquired a 75% stake each in four of the top clubs in the Saudi Pro League namely, Al Ahli, Al Hilal, Al Nassr and Al Ittihad – has so far dominated the summer transfer market, chasing and securing players through its Saudi-owned clubs.
The four PIF-owned clubs have been very active in the transfer market following in the footsteps of Al Nassr who signed Cristiano Ronaldo in January after his release from Manchester United.
Al Ittihad signed Real Madrid legend Karim Benzema on a three-year contract understood to be worth around £258million and also, as confirmed last night by Fabrizio Romano, Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante has now signed an £85million deal at Al Ittihad spread across four years.
N’Golo Kanté to Al Ittihad 🟡⚫️🇸🇦🇫🇷
◉ Four year contract signed.
◉ €100m total salary paid in four years.
◉ Image rights/commercial deals extra;
◉ Negotiations started on June 6 and deal now finally set to be announced.
End of an era for Chelsea legend. 🔵✨ pic.twitter.com/kS8taYnuO1
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) June 18, 2023
Ruben Neves from Wolverhampton Wanderers has put pen to paper with Al Hilal and the likes of Chelsea’s Kalidou Koulibaly, Hakim Ziyech, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Romelu Lukaku also in talks with these Saudi Pro League clubs.
When asked about his concerns over the number of top players heading to Saudi Arabia, Ceferin in response to the Dutch broadcaster NOS, was quoted saying:
“No, no, no. I think that it’s mainly a mistake for Saudi Arabian football.”
“Why is that a problem for them? Because they should invest in academies, they should bring coaches, and they should develop their own players.”
“The system of buying the players that almost ended their career is not the system that develops football. It was a similar mistake in China when they all brought players who are at the end of their career.”
“Tell me one player who is top, top age and who starts his career and went to play in Saudi Arabia? But it’s not about money only. Players want to win top competitions. And top competition are in Europe.”
2023 has seen European football lose Ronaldo, Benzema and Lionel Messi – arguably three of the most influential players in world football in recent times.
But the UEFA president responded: “We didn’t lose them.
“They still play football. At the end of their career some players go somewhere to earn some money.”