The Saudi Pro League is the newly discovered gold mine for football stars. After Cristiano Ronaldo’s sensational move to Al-Nassr, other great European players have also relocated their offices to Saudi Arabia.
Barcelona president Joan Laporta believes that these elite players – some that are even relatively young, have not made this move entirely for sporting reasons. Odion Ighalo also came recently to state emphatically that Cristiano Ronaldo made his Saudi solely for financial benefits after his move to the Middle East back in January made him the highest-paid athlete in the world.
Barcelona president Joan Laporta unleashes brutal critique on Ronaldo
Ronaldo’s fans and pundits around the world were polarised in their opinions when the 5-time Ballon D’or winner made his record move to Al-Nassr. Before the five-times Ballon d’Or winning superstar joined the Saudi Pro League, particularly the club Al-Nassr, the League did not have the fame it has now. Hence, the Portuguese international considers himself a pace-setter at the Saudi Pro League.
According to the Guardian, Ronaldo, in a swipe at Messi, stated emphatically, “The Saudi league is better than MLS.” He further said, “Now all the players are coming here. In one year, more top players will come to Saudi Arabia.”
Following his move to Al Nassr, Cristiano Ronaldo was set to earn a whopping salary of £175m per year. The 38-year-old easily surpassed long rivals like Lionel Messi and NBA stars like Lebron James and Steph Curry to become the world’s highest-paid athlete.
Joan Laporta believes that the financial benefits are solely the reason which is causing this new trend of players joining a relatively lesser competitive league. In a low dig at Cristiano Ronaldo and others joining the Saudi Pro League, Laporta said, “When a player, and with all respect, prefers to go to Saudi Arabia, basically there are no sporting reasons. There are other reasons… and the sporting must be the priority.”
Some weeks ago, Odion Ighalo commented similarly when asked for his opinion about Ronaldo’s move to Al-Nassr. He stated rather emphatically, “Is Ronaldo still playing out of passion? Ronaldo has earned 100 times more than I have in my entire life, yet he went to Saudi Arabia. Did he do that out of passion? It’s for money, bro.”
Which players are moving to Saudi Arabia in 2023?
Sadio Mane is the most recent player to make a venture towards the Middle East. The Senegalese forward was set to undergo Al-Nassr medicals in Dubai on Monday ahead of his move to the club. The deal will see Mane earn a staggering salary of £34 million annually. According to SportingNews, other players who have moved to the Saudi League include the following:
- Karim Benzema: Al Ittihad
- N’Golo Kante: Al Ittihad
- Alex Telles: Al Nassr
- Edouard Mendy: Al Ahli
- Ruben Neves: Al Hilal
- Seko Fofana: Al Nassr
- Sergej Milinkovic-Savic: Al Hilal
- Roberto Firmino: Al Ahli
- Marcelo Brozovic: Al Nassr
- Diogo Jota: Al Ittihad
- Kalidou Koulibaly: Al Hilal
Indeed, it appears that the surge of European players to the Saudi Pro League will continue, as it seems that money largely entices football players. Although it is quite understandable for players aged in the game to pursue such challenges and retire, earning huge wages, younger players should continue to play competitive football to promote the spirit of Sportsmanship.
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