Image Source: CNN
English Premier League teams are facing a challenge as Saudi Arabian clubs target some of their star players. However, fans in Riyadh, Jeddah, and other major cities in the Middle East and Asia are also adapting to the new landscape of football.
The signing of Cristiano Ronaldo by Al-Nassr, one of the ‘Big Four’ clubs alongside Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad, has thrust the country into the global football spotlight. The club’s yellow shirt is now a familiar sight in Europe and beyond.
Jana Mohammed, a devoted Nassr fan, expresses her delight at witnessing “The Yellow” spreading worldwide while also maintaining loyalty to the local league. The influx of top talents like N’Golo Kante, Karim Benzema, and Jota to champions Ittihad, under the guidance of coach Nuno Espirito Santo, further adds to the excitement.
Al-Hilal, with 18 titles to their name, made bids for Lionel Messi and Aleksandar Mitrovic and secured signings such as Kalidou Koulibaly, Ruben Neves, and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. Al-Ahli, on the other hand, acquired Roberto Firmino and Edouard Mendy, with Riyad Mahrez from Manchester City expected to join soon.
Fans are eagerly anticipating the upcoming season, expecting a strong showing from the new crop of talented footballers. Ronaldo himself has spoken highly of the Saudi Pro League’s potential to become one of the top five competitions globally.
The recent takeover of the big four Saudi teams by the country’s Public Investment Fund has bolstered their financial strength, now enabling all 18 teams in the top tier to compete with any in the Arab world.
Notably, Steven Gerrard has taken charge of Ettifaq, a mid-ranking team, and there are rumours of their interest in signing Liverpool legend Jordan Henderson.
This financial power in Saudi football is now attracting players from other regions, with notable names from Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, and elsewhere making moves to Saudi Arabia.
With its strong footballing history, Saudi Arabia aims to climb the ranks in terms of revenue generation and international profile, challenging even established Asian leagues like South Korea’s K-League and Japan’s league.
Already, the commercial success is evident, with Al-Nassr’s popularity surging, thanks to signings like Ronaldo and lucrative deals with Nike. The goal is to be among the world’s top ten revenue-generating leagues by 2030.
The transformation of the Saudi Pro League is resonating with fans, sponsors, and investors, promising a new era of footballing dominance in the Middle East and Asia.