From Karim Benzema to Steven Gerrard: Top football stars who are moving to Saudi league this summer

Apart from the officially declared names, there are several other big players who are currently in talks with Saudi Pro League teams — from Neymar to Bernardo Silva


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AFP file / Reuters file
AFP file / Reuters file

Published: Thu 6 Jul 2023, 8:58 AM

Champions League-winning forward Roberto Firmino is the latest big name to join the Saudi Pro League. The Brazilian international signed for Saudi side Al Ahli after enjoying a fruitful stint at Liverpool. Firmino is joining Al Ahli on a three-year deal. He became a free agent after his contract with the Merseyside-based club expired at the end of last season.

The biggest takeaway of this football summer transfer window has undoubtedly been the rise of the Saudi Pro League. With multiple big names joining Saudi football teams, the country has emerged as a much-preferred destination.

Let’s take a look at the list of celebrated players and managers who will be seen in the Saudi Pro League next season.

Karim Benzema to Al Ittihad

Saudi Arabia’s summer transfer business got going with the acquisition of French striker Karim Benzema. The reigning Ballon d’Or winner completed his move to Al Ittihad on a three-year deal last month. The former Real Madrid goal machine became a free agent having spent 14 years with the Spanish giants.

From Premier League to Saudi Arabia

Chelsea triumvirate N'Golo Kante, Kalidou Koulibaly and Edouard Mendy decided to sign for three different Saudi-based clubs this summer. While Kante will ply his trade for Al Ittihad, defender Koulibaly and goalkeeper Mendy will be seen in Al Hilal and Al Ahli jerseys, respectively.

Marcelo Brozovic to Al Nassr

After securing a blockbuster deal for Cristiano Ronaldo last season, Al Nassr went for Inter Milan midfielder Marcelo Brozovic this time. Brozovic — a key member of Croatia’s 2018 World Cup runners-up squad — joined Al Nassr, after having spent eight years in Italy. During his time in Serie A, Brozovic made 279 appearances for Inter Milan. He guided Nerazzurri to one Serie A title and two Coppa Italia trophies.

Steven Gerrard is Al Ettifaq’s new manager

In the managerial department, former Aston Villa and Rangers head coach Steven Gerrard is the most prominent name to have signed a contract with a Saudi Pro League team this summer. Gerrard was appointed head coach by Al Ettifaq earlier this week. Announcing the former Liverpool and England midfielder’s arrival, Al Ettifaq wrote on Twitter, “Where legends are found. We’re thrilled to announce Steven Gerrard is our new head coach.”

Others who may arrive in the Kingdom

Apart from the officially declared names, there are several other big players who are currently in talks with Saudi Pro League teams. A report published by CBS Sports claimed that Brazilian superstar Neymar is currently on Al Hilal’s radar. The article suggests that Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) are eager to sever ties with Neymar and the 31-year-old will now have to decide whether he wishes to leave top-flight level in European football.

According to BBC, Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva is also a target for Al Hilal. The report mentions that the huge amount of salary offered by Al Hilal could very well be enough to pip Barcelona and PSG in signing the Portuguese international.


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