Whilst the transfer window shut in Europe last Friday, the Saudi Pro League has had an extra few days in order to seal the last few deals in what has been a whirlwind summer for football.
Over the course of 2023, the Saudi Pro League has emerged as maybe the premiere financial powerhouse in world football, and their spending has seen a seismic shift in the footballing landscape.
The Saudi Pro League official transfer deadline is at midnight local time on Thursday 7th September, which equates to 10pm in the UK.
And whilst there has already been a host of players who have made the jump to the league this summer, there are a few more deals expected in the coming hours, with a few major targets still in play for Saudi clubs.
Which players are the Saudi Pro League still targeting?
The big storyline remains any movement on a deal for Mohamed Salah. He is Al-Ittihad’s top target, and they had a £150m bid knocked back unilaterally by Liverpool last Friday.
There has been rumour that the club will return with a £200m offer, although sources suggest the club is divided in how they approach any deal to try and bring Salah to the Saudi Pro League right now.
It’s believed some senior figures at Al-Ittihad believe that they should have one more go at attempting to get Liverpool to part ways with the Egyptian, whilst others want to respect the fact that Liverpool have said he’s not for sale, and try again next summer.
Kaveh Solhekol provides the latest on Al-Ittihad's pursuit of Mohamed Salah ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/hzPRQOQuun
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) September 4, 2023
Salah would become the most expensive player in world football, if a bid was to be accepted, with Sky Sports suggesting it would be for around the $250m mark. Only Neymar’s move from Barcelona to Paris-Saint Germain in 2017 would be in the same ball-park ($238.82)
There’s also a question mark over whether such a deal would be sanctioned by the Saudi Pro League. The club would have to have their bid approved by the SPL’s Director of Football Michael Emenalo and chief executive Saad Al-Lazeez.
Fabrizio Romano added that “‘from Saudi, they continue to insist as Al-Ittihad are really obsessed with a deal for Salah, but now, with the window closed in Europe, it’s very difficult to get the green light for his exit”
Moves for both David de Gea, who is currently without a club after his contract expired at Manchester United this summer, and Hugo Lloris, who has been relegated to third choice goalkeeper at Tottenham Hotspur by new manager Ange Postecoglou, have been touted in the final hours.
Both Al-Nassr and Al-Ittihad are reportedly taking a look at the two options, with a deal for either likely to be relatively easy to complete, given their current situations.
Marco Verratti has been told by new PSG manager Luis Enrique that he is not part of the club’s plans and will not be playing this season, so any potential Saudi move for him looks likely to be sanctioned, although Verratti is also reportedly in talks with Qatari clubs about a switch.
Donny van de Beek is open to a move after a deal taking him to Lorient in Ligue 1 fell through in the final hours of the European window, with a desire on all fronts to end his nightmare stay at Manchester United.
Eden Hazard remains a free agent. Whilst there was talk that the Belgian winger wanted to retire from football, a chance to play again around some former teammates and without the pressure that’s been mounted on him at Real Madrid might be enough to convince him to take one last dance in the desert in the Saudi Pro League.
Paul Pogba’s name has also been discussed in transfer circles, and whilst it seems unlikely that he would give up on his dream of returning to star in black and white at Juventus, his injury record of late might suggest that the club would be willing to accept a fee to take him off the books.
Who is already in the Saudi Pro League and at what clubs?
It’s been an incredibly busy summer for the Saudi Pro League clubs, but whilst almost every club has made some notable signings, the four PiF clubs have made the biggest splashes of all.
Champions Ah-Ahli made a huge splash when they signed Spanish starlet Gabri Veiga from Celta Vigo for €40m, but they also added Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez for €35m, Roma’s Roger Ibañez for €30m and Newcastle’s Allan Saint-Maximin for €27m.
Merih Demiral was brought in from Atalanta for €20m, with the centre-back recently hitting out at former coach Gasperini, whilst Edouard Mendy joined from Chelsea to bolster the goalkeeping ranks, Franck Kessié came in from Barcelona after just a year in Catalonia, and Roberto Firmino joined on a free after his Liverpool contract expired.
Total spend so far: €194m
Al-Ittihad, the team so desperate to sign Mohamed Salah, have that money to spend because they have really made use of the free agents market, bringing in N’Golo Kanté from Chelsea and Karim Benzema from Real Madrid without paying their former clubs a penny.
They did splash out though to bring Fabinho in from Liverpool, at a cost of around €46m, and Portuguese winger Jota from Celtic, who had lit up the Scottish Premier League for the Hoops for the last few seasons.
Total spend so far: €85m
Al-Nassr were the club who got the ball rolling for this on-pitch Saudi revolution, when they got ahead of the curve by signing Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United in January. They’ve added to that addition this summer, bringing in six more players from across Europe.
Sadio Mane joined for €30m after a single, torrid year at Bayern Munich, and Otávio was signed from Porto for €60m to complete an all-star front three, bringing a real Portuguese flavour to the team.
In defence, the additions of Alex Telles and Aymeric Laporte from the red and blue halves of Manchester respectively, cost the club a total of just over €30m, whilst the midfield has been strengthened heavily with the additions of former Lens captain Seko Fofana for €25m and one of the world’s best defensive midfielders in Marcelo Brozovic, who joined from Inter for €18m.
Total spend so far: €165m
Nobody has spent more than Al-Hilal, Asia’s most successful football club, who are desperate to get back to the top of the tree after missing out on the league title last year and finishing as runners-up in the AFC Champions League.
Their summer business is headlined by the addition of Neymar from PSG for a €90m fee, and he will be joined in the front line by countryman Malcom, signed for €60m from Zenit, and Aleksandar Mitrovic, who joined from Fulham for €52m after a drawn-out, protracted saga.
In midfield, Ruben Neves joined from Wolves for €55m, and will be joined by Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, with the former Lazio man costing the club €40m. Behind them, Kalidou Koulibaly will anchor the defensive line after his €23m move from Chelsea, and Sevilla goalkeeper Bono will hold court between the sticks after moving for €21m.
Total spend so far: €353m
Al-Ettifaq are not quite the same as the four clubs above, as they are not one of the teams with a 75% PiF stake, but in manager Steven Gerrard they have managed to attract a myriad of talent nonetheless – without spending quite the same kind of levels.
Jordan Henderson arrived from Liverpool for a fee of €14m, whilst Georginio Wijnaldum joined from PSG after a season out on loan at Roma, with the Parisien club glad to take €8m to get a failed signing off the books.
Scotsman Jack Hendry joined from Club Brugge for €5m, and Moussa Dembele arrived for free after his contract with Lyon expired. Having faced off against both as Celtic players during his time as Rangers boss, Gerrard will know all about their quality.
Demarai Gray also joined the club late on in the window – his switch from Everton was confirmed on deadline day, and is reported to be for a fee of around €12m. Gray had been critical of the methods of former boss Sean Dyche, and admitted he was excited to start his “next chapter” in a goodbye message to Everton fans on social media.
Total spend so far: €239m
Al-Shabab paid €15m to sign Atletico Madrid winger Yannick Carrasco, and also dropped €18m on Strasbourg striker Habib Diallo, who scored 20 times in Ligue 1 last season.
Bologna’s Gambian forward Musa Barrow joined Al-Taawoun for €8m, and Al-Fateh signed former MLS MVP Lucas Zelarayan from Columbus Crew for €3m, and Belgian centre-back Jason Denayer on a free transfer.
Lyon’s Karl Toko Ekambi went to Abha Club for just €1.5m, and the club also added Polish international Grzegorz Krychowiak, formerly of West Bromwich Albion, and veteran Milan goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu, after their contracts expired.
Al-Riyadh signed Juanmi Jimenez from Real Betis on loan, whilst Al-Okhdood followed suit with their own loan winger from the Andalusian club when they picked up Alex Collado.