The Saudi Arabian club is aggressively reinforcing this summer. In the middle of last season, Cristiano Ronaldo moved to the Middle East.
Once the foundation was laid, stars such as Karim Benzema and N’Golo Kante decided to join the Saudis at the end of the season, and offers are being made to a variety of players on an ongoing basis.
Most of these players have made their mark in Europe, are over 30 years old, and are beyond their prime.
However, one exception has arisen. Portuguese midfielder Rubén Neves, who was even captain of Wolverhampton Wanderers until last season, has chosen to play for a Middle Eastern club at the age of 26.
The player had hoped to move to Barcelona, but talks never progressed. The decision came as a surprise, as the player was still in a position to play in the highest league, not only in Spain, but also in the Premier League.
Former England international Peter Crouch, who played for Liverpool and Tottenham in the past, is not satisfied with this decision. He questioned the player’s choice, citing the fact that the Saudi Arabian league is still in its infancy.
“Player-wise, you can kind of understand it. I don’t understand the 25-year-old players in their prime (joining Saudi clubs).
“You’re always going to be 10 years away from any league getting started, we’ve seen this before. The only thing with the Saudi situation is (that) these boys are serious. They did it with the LIV golf, they just didn’t go away.
“I think that will probably be the case with football (too). We can’t really ignore it because it looks like it’s happening, whether we like it or not. But for players, like Neves, 26 years old to go and play in Saudi… I get it with players like (Cristiano) Ronaldo and (Karim) Benzema, players who have achieved everything.
“It’s one last payday in the sunshine and you can retire. They’ve achieved everything they want in the game. But these boys at 25 and 26, they have the opportunity to go and win things. It’s about memories and legacy. They’re still going to get paid well, aren’t they?”talkSPORT
The former Wolves midfielder was reportedly receiving interest from Liverpool, and just when it seemed that the top clubs would be battling it out for his signature, the move to Saudi Arabia was announced.
While the news was eye-opening for many, it also convinced everyone that the Saudis were serious.
Will there come a time in the near future when playing in Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East will be a sign of a top player…?