Saudi spending in transfer window second only to Premier League

AFP

Saudi Pro League (SPL) clubs have splurged $957 million on players in the close season transfer window, according to analysis from Deloitte published on Friday.

Saudi clubs' spend in the transfer window, which closed on September 7, exceeded the spending of four of Europe's 'big five' leagues with only the Premier League ahead of the Middle Eastern nation.

"This marks the first time since 2016 that another international league has outspent any of Europe's 'big five' during a football transfer window...," said Izzy Wray of Deloitte's Sports Business Group.

"European football continues to be the benchmark for the game globally, and the Saudi investment in the game will divert its focus towards the infrastructure, to elevate the level of Asian football."

Earlier this year, the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) announced a Sports Clubs Investment and Privatization Project involving the league champions Al-Ittihad, Al-Ahli, Al-Nassr and Al-Hilal, with a host of top players moving to the league.

PIF own 75 per cent of each of the four clubs, while their respective non-profit foundations own 25 per cent of each.

This window's biggest transfer move came from the most successful club in Saudi Arabia, Al-Hilal, who spent 90 million euros to bring in Brazil star Neymar from Paris St Germain.

In addition to Neymar, Al-Hilal also spent big money to sign Aleksandar Mitrovic, Kalidou Koulibaly, Ruben Neves and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.

Saudi Pro League champions Al-Ittihad signed Karim Benzema, N'Golo Kante and Fabinho, while Cristiano Ronaldo's Al-Nassr splashed out on Otavio, Sadio Mane, Aymeric Laporte, Marcelo Brozovic and Alex Telles.

Al-Ahli, who returned to the Pro League following a season in the second division, also completed a string of signings including Gabri Veiga, Riyad Mahrez, Roberto Firmino, Edouard Mendy, Alain Saint-Maximin and Merih Demiral.

"The implementation of the Kingdom's privatisation programme is likely to draw a wave of interest around the SPL, potentially fueling the current spending pattern for the windows to come," Wray said.

"With the spending power of the SPL already surpassing some of Europe's 'big five', it remains to be seen the impact this will have on the make-up of elite football for future generations."

For all its expenditure, the SPL still missed out on some of its biggest targets.

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah was a target for Al-Ittihad, who reportedly had a bid worth 150 million pounds ($187.10 million) turned down by the Premier League club, while ambitious bids from Al-Hilal for Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe failed to materialise.

Saudi Arabia has made massive investments in football, Formula One, boxing, tennis and golf in recent years.

More from Sports

Coming Up on Dubai Eye

  • Extra Time

    7:00pm - 8:00pm

    Chris & Robbie bring you the latest from the sporting world plus interviews with upcoming and legendary sporting stars.

  • The Night Shift with Mark Lloyd

    8:00pm - 11:00pm

    Musicians and music, entertainers and entertainment, industry gossip and songs selected by you, get ready to bring your night time to life! Every evening from eight, Mark Lloyd brings you an energetic mix of local and international content and contests, featuring an array of celebrity interviews and entertaining anecdotes. Get involved in the show and pick your favourite jukebox hits, every night from 8pm - 11pm.

BUSINESS BREAKFAST LATEST

On Dubai Eye

  • Flying Taxis

    It sounds like an episode of The Jetsons, but the sight of flying taxis whizzing around our cities could be much closer than you think.

  • Tough penalties for deliberate tax evasion

    The UAE has said that tougher penalties will come into force from 1st August for not keeping proper corporate tax records.