Saudi Pro League best transfers: Benzema signing leads the way

The Saudi Pro League best transfers have already caught the attention of many following the PIF (Public Investment Fund) acquisition of four major clubs in the kingdom.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr, reigning champions Al-Ittihad, their Al-Hilal and Al-Ahli have received huge investment and attracting serious talent to the 16-team league.

But the acquisition of which players are the Saudi Pro League's best signings?

Neymar (Al Hilal)

Neymar is without question, the most significant signing for the Saudi Pro League in recent weeks. After plenty of back and forth between PSG and Al Hilal, the Neymar deal has officially been completed. This deal takes the 31-year-old Brazilian away from European football for the second time in his career. In fact, the last time Neymar didn’t play football in Europe was when he played for Santos from 2009 to 2013. Therefore, it's been a full decade that Neymar has entertained fans in Europe with his skill and talents in front of goal. 

Neymar Saudi Pro League Transfers

However, that’s no longer the case, as Neymar has signed for Al Hilal on a two-year deal for a fee of around €90 million. Note that this is simply the fee – as for his wages, Neymar is expected to earn €150 million per year. This is roughly 6x what he earned at PSG! As for the influx of Brazilian players to the Saudi Pro League, Neymar joins several of his national compatriots by making this move.

Furthermore, it looks like the great Brazilian migration isn’t yet over, as there are now links between Willian and the Saudi Pro League.

Malcom (Al Hilal)

Speaking of great Brazilian players heading to the Saudi Pro League, Malcom is another player that has transferred to the East this summer. The 26-year-old winger was playing for Zenit St. Petersburg for the past four seasons, yet he recently agreed to take his talents to Al Hilal. Of course, following the completion of the Neymar deal, Malcom is about to be joined by his fellow countryman in the Saudi team. However, the fee that was paid for Malcom isn’t quite as significant as the fee for Neymar, which was to be expected. 

Malcom Saudi Pro League Transfers

As per the official reports, Malcom made the move to Al Hilal for a fee of around €60 million. Believe it or not, that’s around €30 million more than his estimated market value, so who could blame Zenit St. Petersburg for jumping at the offer?

Riyad Mahrez (Al Ahli)

Riyad Mahrez was a sensational player for Manchester City. He played at the club from 2018-2023, and he helped them win numerous trophies through his role as a pivotal winger. However, following the huge successes of Manchester City’s 2023 season, Mahrez has now become one of the Saudi Pro league’s best transfers this summer. In case you missed the story, Mahrez joined Al Ahli for a fee of around €30 million, and he has a contract at the club until 2027. 

Fabinho (Al Ittihad)

Can you believe it? Here we have another Brazilian that has jumped at a chance to join the Saudi Pro League. After five seasons at Liverpool, the 29-year-old midfielder has decided to take on a new challenge at Al Ittihad. As for specifics of the move, Fabinho signed for Al Ittihad for a fee of around €47 million, which puts him in the mix as one of the most expensive transfers this summer. Fabinho has signed a three-year deal with the club, and he now gets to enjoy his football alongside teammates like Benzema, N’Golo Kante, and Jota.

Karim Benzema (Al-Ittihad)

Al-Ittihad pulled off a sensational coup by securing the services of Karim Benzema, the prolific French striker from Real Madrid. The 35-year-old’s arrival in the Saudi Pro League brings top goal-scoring pedigree and a wealth of experience at the highest level.

Having the 2022 Ballon d’Or winner in their ranks will undoubtedly elevate Al-Ittihad’s attacking prowess. His exceptional technique, intelligent movement, and clinical finishing have fans dreaming of another AFC Champions League title. They last won in 2005 and haven’t been able to compete recently due to financial restrictions.

N'Golo Kanté (Al-Ittihad)

Ngolo Kante - Saudi Pro League best transfers
Photo by Icon Sport

Joining Benzema is another marquee signing in N'Golo Kanté, the World Cup winner who arrives from Chelsea. Kanté's tireless work rate, impeccable ball-winning ability, and exceptional positional sense have earned him a reputation as one of the world's best defensive midfielders.

His presence in midfield will be an upgrade from Egypt’s Tarek Hamed, who played 28 times last season partnering with Bruno Henrique of Brazil. A two-time Premier League winner will undoubtedly help the Jeddah-based team's overall balance and solidity.

Ruben Neves (Al-Hilal)

Ruben Neves
Photo by Icon sport

Another midfielder switching the Premier League to the Pro League is Portugal’s Ruben Neves in a reported €55 million deal. In contrast to the aforementioned transfers, this player is arguably entering his peak at 26 years of age.

A ball-winner who can launch counterattacks and score from a distance, he would have been a perfect fit for outgoing coach Ramón Díaz. In any case, the Al-Hilal board are looking to bring in compatriot Marco Silva from Fulham to get the best out of Neves. His clever positioning and top technique are undoubtedly going to make him a hit Riyadh.

Kalidou Koulibaly (Al-Hilal)

Kalidou Koulibaly
Photo by Icon Sport

Continuing the Premier League exodus to Saudi Arabia is another French-born player, Kalidou Koulibaly, who like Kanté arrives in the Middle East from Chelsea. The Senegal international had a disappointing season in England but his previous stint in Serie A earned him plenty of plaudits and a Coppa Italia medal.

The central defender will bring much-needed stability to the Al-Hilal backline – they conceded just under a goal game last season (29 goals in 30 matches), which was more than double that of champions Al-Ittihad. The 6ft 1in defender will likely partner South Korean international Jang Hyun-soo, with Al-Hilal hoping to challenge for the title.

Edouard Mendy (Al-Ahli)

Edouard Mendy
Photo by Icon sport

Arguably the smallest of the four clubs to receive PIF investment is Al-Ahli, the ground-sharing rivals of Al-Ittihad in Jeddah. They were relegated for the first time in their history in 2021-22 but bounced straight back to the Pro League as First Division champions. They have also taken advantage of Chelsea’s squad trimming by snapping up 31-year-old goalkeeper Edouard Mendy.

The Champions League winner had fallen out of favour, making just 10 appearances last season but will be an excellent addition for the recently promoted side. While at Rennes in Ligue 1, he recorded the highest save percentage in the league and was one of the most accurate long passers. That kicking ability fits in with the Al-Ahli’s strategy having also contracted two speedy local wingers from Al-Taawoun in Sumayhan Al-Nabit and Fahad Al-Rashidi.

Saudi Pro League best transfers – more to come?

The start of the summer transfer window in the Saudi Pro League has witnessed some groundbreaking signings that have undoubtedly raised the excitement and anticipation for the upcoming season.

The prospect of former teammates Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo locking horns has added an extra layer of quality and star power to the tournament.

With a splash of Premier League quality that brings experience and a winning mentality, these top-class players will undoubtedly significantly impact their respective team’s ability to compete not just locally but in continental competition.

With more rumours surrounding Roberto Firmino and Jota in the pipeline, the Saudi Pro League is attracting the world’s attention like never before.