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Saudi Arabian Influence on Football and Why Top Players Go There

Saudi Arabian Influence on Football and Why Top Players Go There

You’ve probably noticed that we’re seeing more notable players joining the Saudi Pro League football clubs. More often than not, the signing bonuses and salaries of the players are jaw-dropping. But why are famous football players in Saudi Arabia so attracted to go there? How is the KSA’s impact on international football? Let’s find out. 

Saudi Pro League

The Saudi Pro League typically consists of 16 teams competing in a round-robin format. However, starting from the 2023-24 season, the number of teams will increase to 18. Clubs face off in home and away matches throughout the season. 

Just like the legendary leagues you know and love, such as the Premier League and La Liga, the team in the Saudi Pro League that accumulates the most points tops the table and becomes the champion. And if you’re the kind of fan who loves planning your game day in advance, the full-season fixtures are available for you to check out.  

The league follows a promotion and relegation system, which it shares with the Saudi First Division. Clubs like Al Hilal, Al Nassr, Al Ahli, and Al Ittihad share ambitious plans; they also have a large fan base and a bejeweled coach portfolio. The players we discuss in this post mainly belong now to these few clubs. 

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Why Are Players Going to Saudi Arabia?

The simple answer as to why foreign players are going to Saudi Arabia is money. Football players, even the superstars, have a limited time to rack up those earnings, especially with the risk of injuries lurking around every corner.

The Power of the Paycheck

For example, the Portuguese midfielder Ruben Neves reportedly earned around $5.1 mil per year with Wolverhampton Wanderers. After joining Al Hilal in Saudi, he will reach an estimated $15.3m annually. That means he’s earning three times more in the Saudi football league than he was making with this English club. 

Interestingly, football is not the only sport the rich guys from Saudi are targeting. We’ve seen a similar situation in golf. Many big-name players have left the PGA Tour to join the Saudi-funded LIV International Golf Series. 

The Game Plan: Saudi’s Grand Ambitions

Saudi Arabia has its agenda behind buying up all the top players from around the world. 

For starters, Saudi Arabia’s pursuit is driven by its economic ambitions. It may be spending a lot of money, but at the same time, it will make more than it spends. The country’s goal is to increase revenue from its football league and establish it as one of the world’s top ten leagues. 

Then there are the World Cup ambitions. Saudi Arabia has applied to host the FIFA World Cup in 2030, following Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 edition. This bid is part of the country’s broader efforts to enhance its global profile, with football playing a crucial role in projecting a positive image internationally.

Saudi Pro League teams have sought an alternative route as part of the initiative since they don’t regularly participate in prestigious European tournaments.The management is offering significant sums to emerging stars. Of course, they’re getting results by improving the league’s reputation and fostering a more competitive environment.

What Players Are Saudi Arabia Attracting?

Club owners are determined to establish the Saudi Arabia Football League as one of the best domestic leagues in the World. The buzz it’s creating ahead of the 2023-24 season is nothing but a glimpse of what’s coming in the near future. 

Let’s look at the player portfolio Saudi teams have crafted.

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Famous Players Who Joined the Saudi Pro League

High-profile signings like Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, both Ballon d’Or winners, signal to older players that the Saudi Pro League is a viable option. The players get to compete with leagues like the MLS or Chinese Super League to keep their stats intact before retirement.

Then there is the epic deal Kylian Mbappe got from Al Hilal. He would’ve made a base salary of €200m for a one-year contract! But he didn’t accept the offer. 

Apart from the big-name signings, notable European players, such as Ever Banega, Talisca, Luiz Gustavo, and others, already compete in Saudi football. To an international audience, the presence of these players is enhancing the league’s overall appeal.

The Players Who Sound to Arrive

As of August 2023, the transfers are complete, and players are ready to roll out this summer. Many big-name players are supposed to enter the KSA soon to join their teams. Names like Yassine Bounou, Otavio, Aymeric Laporte, Roger Ibanez, Fabinho, and a handful of other players will join clubs like Al Hilal, Al Nassr, Al Ittihad, and Al Shabab.  

How Much Money Saudi Arabian Teams Spent on Big Names

We may have something for you if you’re wondering exactly how much money club owners are throwing at foreign football players in Saudi Arabia. The numbers you see are the total market values for each club, and the data is extracted from Transfermarkt.  


ClubMarket Value
Al Nassr$75 mil
Al Hilal$50.5 mil
Al Ittihad$28.7 mil
Al Shabab$37.6 mil
Al Ettifaq$29.5 mil



From what we can see, the KSA football clubs will continue to invite football stars in the coming years as part of the narrative to boost the popularity of SPL. They’ve already set the momentum by securing players like Ronaldo, Neymar, and Benzema. It’s only a matter of time before European players consider Saudi clubs seriously before they reach the end of their career. 

Don’t forget that if you want to keep abreast of not only modern football trends, but also keep track of upcoming football events, then be sure to check out our article on the main football events of November.


Which footballers have already gone to Saudi?

Popular footballers that have gone to Saudi include Neymar, Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Fabinho. 

Who is the best player in Saudi Arabia football team?

If we go by the Saudi Pro League, Neymar is perhaps the best player, followed by Karim Benzema, Sadio Mane, and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Is football famous in Saudi Arabia?

Sports has long been an important aspect of Saudi culture. Football is the most popular sport in the country. The national team may not have been shining in World Cups but it has won three Asian Cups over the years!

What did Saudi offer Neymar?

Neymar recently joined Al Hilal SFC, which guaranteed him $300 mil, which can go up to $400 mil when factoring in the commercial deals.

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