The Saudi Pro League has become a popular destination for players in Europe. Luring top-level players and managers with the offer of a huge financial contract has led to the league growing steadily.
The trend began with Cristiano Ronaldo with his move to Al-Nassr in January. Since then, plenty of other top talents followed suit to get a contract of a lifetime. Currently, the league boasts the likes of Karim Benzema, Sadio Mane, Neymar Jr. and others. And they are still not done yet, as they plan to bring in more top players.
Top stars De Bruyne and Lewandowski turn down Saudi Pro League transfers
However, two stars have shown that they prioritize their career over money by rejecting multiple contract offers from Saudi Pro League clubs. Renowned journalist Fabrizio Romano revealed that Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne and Barcelona striker Robert Lewandowski have refused offers from the Arab clubs despite the huge financial incentives. He also said that David Alaba did the same, as he wanted to stay at Real Madrid.
Robert Lewandowski & Kevin de Bruyne received several approaches from Saudi clubs to join them this summer 🇸🇦— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) September 9, 2023
⛔️ Both rejected as Lewa wanted to stay at Barça, same for KdB at City.
❌ Alaba also never considered that option, only Real Madrid.
📱 More: https://t.co/Y5wFCrNUYM pic.twitter.com/fJbryzopCw
Both Lewandowski and De Bruyne are still in their prime, despite the former at the age of 35 and the latter at 32. And yet they are still contributing to their teams, with Lewandowski helping Barcelona win the La Liga trophy and winning the Pichichi himself. De Bruyne himself played a pivotal role as Manchester City won a maiden Champions League trophy and won a historic treble.
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah also received a big bid but refused to leave. Lionel Messi also famously refused a huge contract from Al Hilal to move to Inter Miami. Kylian Mbappe also opted to stay at PSG over a huge offer from Al Hilal even though he was being pressured to leave. These few players have shown that a legacy at Europe’s top clubs is better than chasing after money.
Saudi Pro League’s transfer market coup of Neymar, Benzema, Mane make waves
However, a lot of players still went to the Saudi Pro League due to being unwanted in Europe and the offer of a huge contract. The Saudi Pro League has been the second most spending league with only the Premier League exceeding them, having already spent nearly 1 billion Euros.
The most recent big name to move was Neymar Jr. who came to Al Hilal from Paris Saint Germain for a 100 million Euros fee. Before him, players like Riyad Mahrez, Sadio Mane, Jordan Henderson, Roberto Firmino, Kalidou Koulibaly, and others have also made the move.
The last Balon d’Or winner Karim Benzema also left Real Madrid to become Al-Ittihad’s main player. He is currently the second-highest-paid player after Ronaldo. Along with him, N’Golo Kante also made the move to Al-Ittihad.
Currently, the transfer window is closed for the Saudis, but once the winter transfer window opens, the desert will bring its riches out to lure even more of Europe’s talents in.