The football transfer scenario in Europe was gobsmacked with the sudden surge of players leaving for Saudi Arabia this season.
Though Cristiano Ronaldo started the exodus last season, moving to Al Nassr after terminating his contract with Manchester United, this summer saw the Saudi Pro League become the talk of the town.
After the summer transfer window for the 2023-24 season, Sportstar looks at the top five arrivals in the league.
Brazil and Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar joined Saudi Pro League side Al Hilal, the arch-rival of Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al Nassr, in a deal reportedly worth 160 million euros after spending six years in the French capital.
“Neymar has agreed with Al-Hilal on a two-year contract. PSG and the Saudi club are discussing the terms of the transfer of the Brazilian striker,” French daily L’equipe reported on Sunday.
The most successful club in Saudi Arabia and Asia, Al Hilal has won 66 trophies and holds the record for league and Asian Champions League titles, with 18 and four.
Bayern Munich’s Senegal forward Sadio Mane joined Cristiano Ronaldo at Al-Nassr after one season with the Bundesliga champion. He signed a four-year contract with the club.
Financial details were not disclosed, but media reports said the Saudis paid 40 million euros (43.85 million USD) for the 31-year-old, who had two more years left on his Bayern contract.
Mane moved to Bayern last year with high hopes after netting 120 goals in 269 games for Liverpool, where he won the Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup and Club World Cup.
The twice African Footballer of the Year averaged more than 20 goals a season in his last five campaigns with Liverpool but scored only 12 for Bayern.
Saudi Pro League got another Ballon d’Or winner in its teams after Ronaldo when Karim Benzema joined league champion Al-Ittihad after 14 years and 648 games at Real Madrid.
The 35-year-old Benzema had been with Madrid since 2009 and won a club record 25 titles, including five Champions League trophies.
His last season with Madrid saw him captain the team to victory in the Copa del Rey final but Madrid finished second to Barcelona in the Spanish league and lost in the semifinals of the Champions League.
Brozovic makes the list not just because he is a FIFA World Cup 2018 runner-up but also because he left Europe (at least for now) right after becoming the runner-up in the UEFA Champions League.
His midfield antiques had attracted interest from a number of clubs, with Barcelona leading the race. But the Croat followed Mane and Ronaldo to Al Nassr for a reported fee of 18 million euros.
“Everyone wanted him. He wanted only us,” Al-Nassr said in a tweet announcing Brozovic’s arrival Monday.
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson reunited with former teammate Steven Gerrard at Al Ettifaq when he left Anfield after 12 years. He joined the club for an estimated at 13 million pounds, as per reports.
“It’s hard to put these last 12 years into words, and it’s even harder to say goodbye,” the 33-year-old wrote on his Instagram account. “Thank you for everything. You’ll never walk alone.”
The England international helped Jurgen Klopp’s side win their first Premier League title in 30 years in 2020. He also captained Liverpool to the FA Cup, League Cup, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup titles.
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