Karim Ben­ze­ma and Rober­to Firmi­no have signed up for the league, but that’s not the whole list.

Sau­di Ara­bia is mak­ing noise in the foot­ball mar­ket: local clubs have not stopped at Cris­tiano Ronal­do and are mas­sive­ly buy­ing up stars of the Euro­pean cham­pi­onships. The RPL was no excep­tion, Zen­it’s top scor­er Mal­com moved to Al-Hilal for a record amount.

Why do football players move to Saudi Arabia?

It’s sim­ple — local league clubs offer astro­nom­i­cal salaries. At the same time, they are hunt­ing for free agents — play­ers who are with­out a club. For exam­ple, Ronal­do, Ben­ze­ma, Firmi­no and Ngo­lo Kante moved to Sau­di Ara­bia when their con­tracts with Euro­pean clubs end­ed.

How­ev­er, pay­ing for the trans­fer is not a prob­lem. The Arabs bought Mal­colm from Zen­it for 60 mil­lion and Ruben Neves from Wolver­hamp­ton for 55 mil­lion. But the main expense item is huge salaries, which are nowhere near in Europe.

The Saud­is are buy­ing up not only estab­lished world stars, but also young foot­ball play­ers. The list is expand­ing every day, and Ronal­do is con­fi­dent that Sau­di Ara­bia will soon have one of the best leagues.

Why do Arabs buy football players?

In Sau­di Ara­bia, the state owns 75% of the shares of Al-Nasr, Al-Itti­had, Al-Ahly and Al-Hilal. These teams are now buy­ing up stars en masse; it is report­ed that $1 bil­lion has been ear­marked for trans­fers.

The author­i­ties are devel­op­ing the cham­pi­onship to improve the coun­try’s image and get the 2030 World Cup. There are sev­er­al rea­sons for this desire. In 2022, the cham­pi­onship was held in Qatar, a polit­i­cal rival in the region. The suc­cess­ful per­for­mance of the Sau­di Ara­bi­an team at the World Cup also had an impact — it did not qual­i­fy from the group, but sen­sa­tion­al­ly defeat­ed Argenti­na with Mes­si on the field.

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What has changed since Ronaldo’s transfer?

Ronal­do’s move last year was an exper­i­ment. Ronal­do was made the high­est paid ath­lete in the world, and the sheikhs became famil­iar with the foot­ball busi­ness. From a sport­ing point of view, Al-Nasr did not win any­thing (sec­ond place in the cham­pi­onship), but the media effect was huge.

In the third quar­ter of 2024, FIFA will deter­mine where the 2030 World Cup will take place. Sau­di Ara­bia alone will not be able to host the tour­na­ment. There­fore, the Saud­is pro­posed shar­ing it with oth­er coun­tries Egypt and Greece.

Ronal­do became the main star of the cham­pi­onship, but there were also refusals report­ed about Robert Lewandows­ki and Luka Mod­ric. But the loud­est, of course, came from Leo Mes­si. He chose the Amer­i­can Inter Mia­mi rather than 200 mil­lion euros a year from Al-Hilal.