Saudi football clubs lead global transfers with $957M Splurge
Saudi Pro League clubs have spent a record $957 million in the transfer window, surpassing almost all top European leagues.
Saudi Pro League (SPL), clubs have made an unprecedented investment in international football transfers, spending nearly one billion dollars in the 2023-2024 summer transfer window.
Deloitte's analysis, published on Friday, reveals that the SPL's total expenditure in the transfer window that closed on September 7 has exceeded the spending of four out of Europe's 'big five' leagues, with only the English Premier League outspending them.
"This marks the first time since 2016 that another international league has outspent any of Europe's 'big five' during a football transfer window," noted Izzy Wray of Deloitte's Sports Business Group.
"European football continues to be the benchmark for the game globally, and the Saudi investment in the game will divert its focus towards the infrastructure to elevate the level of Asian football."
SPL Director of Football, Michael Emenalo, formerly of Chelsea, expressed his hope that the league's actions would generate "positive headlines." Emenalo said that the league is greatly satisfied with what has been done, adding that it has been able to attract "some of the best players in the world."
The surge in spending can be attributed to the Saudi Public Investment Fund's (PIF) Sports Clubs Investment and Privatisation Project, involving league champions Al-Ittihad, Al-Ahli, Al-Nassr, and Al-Hilal, which led to the acquisition of several top players.
Notably, Al-Hilal, the most successful club in Saudi Arabia, secured the services of superstar Neymar from Paris St Germain for a whopping 90 million euros ($96.34 million). Besides Neymar, Al-Hilal made significant moves to bring in Aleksandar Mitrovic, Kalidou Koulibaly, and Ruben Neves from various English Premier League clubs.
SPL Pmpions Al-Ittihad welcomed Karim Benzema, N'Golo Kante, and Fabinho to their ranks, while Al-Nassr, home to Cristiano Ronaldo, brought in Otavio, Sadio Mane, Aymeric Laporte, and others.
Al-Ahli, who returned to the Pro League following a season in the second division, also bolstered their squad with notable signings, including Gabri Veiga, Riyad Mahrez, Roberto Firmino, Edouard Mendy, and Alain Saint-Maximin, forming a formidable front three that can challenge top clubs around the world.
Izzy Wray commented, "The implementation of the Kingdom's privatization program is likely to draw a wave of interest around the SPL, potentially fueling the current spending pattern for the windows to come."
Despite the hefty expenditures, the SPL missed out on some of its high-profile targets. Al-Ittihad's ambitious offer of 150 million pounds ($187.10 million) for Liverpool's Mohamed Salah was turned down, and Al-Hilal's attempts to secure Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe were unsuccessful.
In recent years, Saudi Arabia has made substantial investments in various sports, including football, Formula One, boxing, tennis, and golf.
This has been seen as an attempt at sportswashing according to experts, in light of Saudi Arabia's lack of record on human rights.
However, Emenalo defended the league's intentions, saying, "... I've not seen a clear indication that this is anything but wanting to have one of the best leagues in the world to provide quality entertainment and leadership examples to the people of Saudi Arabia."