Controversial Saudi move for many stars

Soccer player in Saudi Arabia

During the summer, several famous players and coaches moved to clubs in Saudi Arabia. Here are some of these.

al-Ahli: Édouard Mendy, Roberto Firmino, Riyad Mahrez, Allan Saint-Maximin, Franck Kessie, Gabri Veiga.

al-Ettifaq: Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum, Demarai Gray, Steven Gerrard (coach).

al-Hilal: Rúben Neves, Kalidou Koulibaly, Sergej Milinković-Savić, Neymar, Yassine Bounou, Aleksandar Mitrović.

al-Ittihad: Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kanté, Fabinho.

al-Nassr: Marcelo Brozović, Sadio Mané, Aymeric Laporte.

The football world is changing.

Since Saudi Arabia began investing heavily in soccer, star after star has made the leap to the Middle East to play in the Saudi Pro League.

Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo completed a move for al-Nassr at the end of last year – and during the summer profiles such as Karim Benzema and Neymar have also moved to the country.

Now the transfer window has closed in Saudi Arabia.

There is a clear connection between the Saudi football venture and the country’s state investment fund, Pif. The fund owns four of the clubs in the Saudi league – al-Ahli, al-Ittihad, al-Hilal and al-Nassr – and it is also these clubs that have signed the most famous players.

The country is classified as a dictatorship

According to Transfermarkt, over 200 players have been signed to the Saudi league in this transfer window and around SEK 10.9 billion is said to have been spent by Saudi clubs.

Only one league, the Premier League, has spent more money in this transfer window. Several media have reported that al-Ittihad made a monster bid for Mohamed Salah, but when the window has now closed, it is also clear that the Egyptian star will remain in Liverpool.

The Saudi investment in football is considered very controversial. Saudi Arabia is classified as a dictatorship and has major shortcomings when it comes to human rights. The investment in football is seen as a way to wash the country’s reputation through sports, so-called sports laundering.

The Swede: “No problem playing football there”

The players who move to Saudi Arabia are often criticized for their decisions. Swede Robin Quaison, who plays for al-Ettifaq every day, has been asked several times how he sees the whole thing.

In connection with a previous national team meeting, he said:

— It’s politics. I play football, it doesn’t affect me. That it would be a problem to play there, I don’t agree with that.

— Every country has its policy and it can be interpreted as problematic and certain issues are problematic. But for me, playing football there is no problem.

Jordan Henderson, who previously profiled himself as a big supporter of the LGBTQ movement, commented on his decision to The Athletic earlier this week.

— People who don’t know me have criticized me… and I care. I can understand the frustration and anger. When I made this decision, I reasoned that we can all bury our heads in the sand and criticize other cultures and other countries from different angles, but that it won’t change anything, he said.