Opinion: The Saudi Pro League is weakening English football

The Premier League is seeing more young players leave to join the Saudi Pro League and it’s only a matter of time until we see the negative toll it will take on England’s top flight.

Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo are just a few household names who have been lured over to the Pro League – but this is just the start of their plan to dominate world football.

Players are much more attracted to the Saudi Pro League now as the multi-million salaries have proven too much to turn down.

Some context on the Saudi League: originally all 16 teams were owned by the Saudi royal family. Eight are now owned by companies of the royal family, with eight more available to the highest bidder.

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), the nation’s wealth fund which also owns Newcastle United, has taken control of the nation’s four largest teams – Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al Nassr, Neymar’s Al-Hilal, Al-Ittihad and Al-Ahli. PIF will own 75 percent of these clubs.

Neymar joining Al-Hilal pretty much sums up this whole piece. His move affects a different European league but he is regarded as one of the best in the world and has an undeniable global presence. 

To make this move aged 31 when many would agree he is at the pinnacle of his career just reinforces that the monetary Saudi pull can persuade the most elite player.

You might think this is a good thing – fewer players nearing retirement bench-warming at your club – but more young players are making this move earlier in their career.

Demarai Gray, for example, was seen as the new exciting prospect for Everton but he’s just joined Al-Ettifaq – Jordan Henderson’s new team – aged 27.

Everton are a club who need players like him to stay to reduce their chances of relegation. It would be devastating if a historical club like Everton went down to the Championship – after being in the top flight since 1954.

This is just one example of how our ability to retain and attract the best players has hugely weakened and it’s only going to get worse.

Image: Neymar, then of FC Barcelona, during a function in Doha. Pic by Vinod Divakaran. CC-by-2.0. Via Wikimedia Commons

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