Rodri, the Spanish midfielder, is concerned about the trend of top talents from Europe moving to the Saudi Pro League. He pointed out that even his Manchester City teammates, Riyad Mahrez and Aymeric Laporte, made such moves this summer.
To address this concern, Rodri is advocating for control measures to be put in place to prevent European football from losing its top talents in the future.
Rodri said: "Evidently, European football loses with this situation and it is a very particular opinion of the players who decide to go out to these leagues. It is totally understandable due to the amount of money they offer. I think it’s a personal issue for everyone to decide for themselves."
"We Europeans don't really like it. It must be controlled in some way this drain of talent because at first it seemed like it was just veterans in the twilight of their careers, but there are young people now who are leaving. They are respectable decisions, but the people who take action must control this situation."
Saudi Arabia’s Impact on the European Football Market
In recent years, Saudi Arabia has made significant strides in the European football market. The country’s investment in the sport has been both substantial and strategic, leading to a shift in the dynamics of the market.
A New Footballing Powerhouse
Saudi Arabia’s Pro League has emerged as a major player in global football, with spending that ranks second only to the English Premier League. The 2023 summer transfer window was particularly noteworthy, with Pro League clubs spending more than £750 million and attracting a host of world-class and Premier League stars. The overall spending total for the Saudi Pro League’s transfer window was around $900 million.
The big spending figures come despite some high-profile deals falling through, including a late bid from Al-Ittihad for Liverpool star Mohamed Salah. The majority of Saudi spending has been dominated by the country’s four largest clubs, Al-Ittihad, Al-Ahli, Al-Nassr and Al-Hilal.
The Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia has played a significant role in this surge of investment. The PIF acquired a 75% stake in four of the league’s 18 teams: Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr in Riyadh, and Al-Ahli and Al-Ittihad in Jeddah. These clubs have since been majority-owned by the PIF and have spent a combined 835.1 million euros on transfers.
In addition to domestic investments, the PIF has also shown interest in European clubs. It purchased Newcastle United in 2021 and is reportedly considering a $3.5 billion bid to buy Chelsea.
Driving Factors and Criticisms
The PIF argues that its involvement in football is part of a broader project to diversify the Saudi economy away from oil and to promote physical activity among citizens. However, critics see these investments as an attempt to draw attention away from Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.
Despite these criticisms, there is no denying that Saudi Arabia’s investments are reshaping the landscape of European football. As this trend continues, it will be interesting to see how it impacts the dynamics of the sport both within Europe and globally.