Benzema, Messi may follow Ronaldo as Saudi clubs eye for foreign football stars

The League also seeks to fill the dugout with well-known managers as Nuno's success spurs interest in big names like Zidane and Mourinho

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Published: Wed 14 Jun 2023, 2:40 PM

Last updated: Thu 15 Jun 2023, 6:29 PM

Portuguese football star Cristiano Ronaldo's historic Al Nassr FC deal has significantly boosted Saudi Arabia's ambitions of becoming a dominant force in the world of football. Ronaldo landed in the Saudi capital Riyadh as the world's highest-paid athlete. Needless to say, the former Manchester United striker's acquisition was perceived as a landmark moment in Asian football.

Many experts believe that Ronaldo was just the start, and several big footballing names will make a move to the Saudi league in the near future. The Saudi-based clubs' latest activities in the transfer market are now only proving the veracity of these claims.

Saudi Arabia is now on the verge of landing Lionel Messi this summer. The last time Ronaldo and Messi played in the same league was in 2018. If the latest reports are to be believed, football fans can once again expect to witness the enticing rivalry between the two modern greats in the Saudi League next season.

A report in AFP has claimed that senior club officials of Al Hilal arrived in France to try and secure a deal for the Argentine World Cup-winning skipper. The report suggests that the Saudi delegation wishes to meet Messi and his father and agent Jorge in order to complete the signing of the former Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) striker. Messi’s current contract with PSG will come to an end at the end of June.

Ronaldo’s former Real Madrid teammate Karim Benzema is also expected to follow in the footsteps of the Portuguese superstar in the summer transfer window. According to Reuters, Al Ittihad have reached an agreement with the 2022 Ballon d’Or winner to sign him on a two-year deal.

Saudi clubs continue to actively pursue top-tier talent. N'Golo Kante, a crucial piece in Chelsea’s midfield over the years, has reportedly received an offer from a Saudi club over a potential free transfer. The French star’s current contract is set to expire at the end of this month. Kante was expected to renew his contract with Chelsea but the club officials failed to reach an agreement with the 32-year-old.

It’s not just foreign players who are making a move to Saudi Arabia, foreign coaches are in demand too. Portuguese manager Nuno Espirito Santo’s performance this season has been truly remarkable. The former Tottenham Hotspur and Wolves head coach guided Al Ittihad to their first championship since 2009.

Nuno’s success this season will undoubtedly prompt other Saudi-based sides to look for foreign faces in the dugout. With the Saudi Pro League set to expand from 16 to 18 teams from the 2023-24 season, clubs have reportedly started to look for foreign managers for the next campaign. Big names like Zinedine Zidane and Jose Mourinho have already been on the radar of multiple Saudi sides.


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