The Saudi Pro League has been the major headline maker during the 2023 summer transfer window, with huge wages being offered to a number of stars to ditch European football and be part of something new in the Middle East.
Whilst there is a fear among fans and clubs that any player can have their mouth stuffed with gold, there are certain situations where the Saudi Pro League is doing European clubs a big favour. Premier League clubs in particular find it very hard to identify buyers for unwanted players boasting wages or a perceived transfer value that many European clubs cannot afford.
For this reason, there are some players around Europe right now who might be hoping that a Saudi Pro League club comes in for them, and some clubs who may, deep down, be thinking the same thing.
READ MORE ON THE PLAYERS LINKED TO SAUDI ARABIA & THE MONEY ON OFFER
AC Milan have been incredibly busy this summer in the transfer market with Marco Sportiello and Luka Romero snagged on free transfers along with Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Christian Pulisic, Tijjani Reijnders and Samuel Chukwueze for a total spend of around £78m – more than any other club in the division.
Those purchases have been partially funded by Sandro Tonali’s sale but more departures are needed. Two players at the top of the list of expendables are Divock Origi and Ante Rebic. The two forwards offered little last season and were left out of the US tour squad. Milan want transfer fees for them.
Besiktas have been very interested in Rebic but want to loan him with an option to buy, while Milan are pushing for a full sale. Saudi Arabian clubs can offer that and interest in Rebic from the Middle East already exists. As for Origi, the Premier League may be a more realistic option but he has the hallmarks of a player that may end up in Saudi Arabia.
Chelsea have had a lot of involvement with Saudi Pro League clubs this summer as N’Golo Kante, Edouard Mendy and Kalidou Koulibaly have headed in that direction. They have also been very keen for Hakim Ziyech to do the same.
The Moroccan had seemed destined for Al Nassr but the move fell through. He has wanted to leave Chelsea for a while now and the club certainly don’t need him given the number of wide players they have. As for Romelu Lukaku, Chelsea would like to sell him as soon as possible to bring the whole affair to a close.
There was an offer from Saudi Arabia earlier in the window but Lukaku is determined to remain in Europe. Unless a move to Juventus starts to get off of the ground, he could be left with the choice of Saudi Arabia or the reserves at Chelsea.
Hugo Lloris has already announced his intention to leave Tottenham this summer and the club are not going to stand in his way. There are a number of potential options available to the Frenchman and at 36 years old, few would begrudge him pursuing a payday in Saudi Arabia.
That would lead to a clean break for Spurs, but there is European interest in Lloris too. Inter need two goalkeepers and Lloris is a contender to become the number one.
Manchester United have been traditionally bad at selling players. Many stay for far too long on contracts that are far too big for any other club to match. Given both Fred and Harry Maguire are now deemed as surplus to requirements, especially if other signings arrive, they are in danger of heading down that same road.
The potential signing of Sofyan Amrabat would speed up Fred’s exit, with Galatasaray and Saudi Arabian clubs showing interest. Fred would command a big wage in the Middle East and at 30 he is young enough to potentially return to a decent level in Europe.
Unless a new defender arrives, there is a good chance that Maguire will stay at United as a squad option. He wants to play football, though, and he may choose to take himself out of the spotlight and spend a couple of seasons in Saudi Arabia if an offer arrives. Although, that exit could compromise his involvement for England.
It would be a shame for Paul Pogba’s second spell at Juventus to end like this, but he is the best-paid player in the squad and they will not find anyone to match those wages in Europe. Injuries have ravaged Pogba’s return to the Bianconeri and there is serious talk of Juve just cutting their losses.
The general belief seems to be that Pogba wants to stay at Juventus and fight for his place and his fitness next season, but should Juventus tell him that it is time to go, Saudi Arabia may be the only place he can go that wouldn’t involve a pay cut. The PIF-backed duo of Al Ahli and Al Ittihad are both interested.
On this week’s edition of Talking Transfers, part of the 90min podcast network, Toby Cudworth is joined by Graeme Bailey to discuss the next steps in Bayern Munich’s Harry Kane hunt, Brighton rejecting another Chelsea bid for Moises Caicedo, who has had the most impressive transfer window so far & more!
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