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Saudi transfer window closes after luring stars like Neymar, Benzema, Mane

Saudi transfer window closes after luring stars like Neymar, Benzema, Mane

Manchester: Saudi Arabia’s Pro League transfer window 2023 was closed on Thursday following an outlay of $1 billion, with top players like Neymar, Karim Benzema, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, and Aymeric Laporte moving to Arabian clubs.

The transfer window, which opened on July 1 and closed on September 7, has lured many stars away from Europe’s biggest clubs.

Ronaldo’s decision to join Al-Nassr in December has paved the way for more leading players around the world to head to the country.

According to reports, Saudi clubs paid over $1 billion on players, which would place it behind only the English Premier League in terms of global spending during the window. 87 percent of the spending was done by just four clubs, Al Hilal, Al Ahli, Al Nassr, and Al Ittihad.

The push is backed by the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which took up a majority ownership stake in the four top clubs.

However, there is no indication that Saudi Arabia's spending will stop there, since the country has pushed to buy its way into world sports in recent years, investing in golf, boxing, Formula One racing, and tennis, in addition to soccer.

This has led to accusations of “sportswashing” in an attempt to improve the country’s image in light of its poor human rights record, but the country has continued to spend lavishly as it seeks to raise the profile of its soccer league.

“I see how women live there, and how people go about their lives. Honestly, it is a beautiful country. It is hard to judge if you only listen to what people say about it. You have to experience it yourself,” said Yannick Carrasco, who joined Al Shabab from Atlético Madrid earlier this week, defending Saudi Arabia.

Despite the expectation that Mohamed Salah could be the latest superstar signing, the window ended relatively quietly. Liverpool last week reportedly rejected a proposal of around 150 million pounds ($188 million) from Al-Ittihad for Salah.

Failed attempts were also made for Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe. Meanwhile, Demarai Gray joined Al-Ettifaq from Everton and Luiz Felipe completed a move from Real Betis to Al-Ittihad. There was also speculation that Manchester United winger Jadon Sancho could join the exodus, but a move did not materialize.

Neymar is the biggest signing of the window, who joined Al Hilal from Paris Saint-Germain. Al Hilal, Saudi’s most successful team, also signed Yassine Bounou, Kalidou Koulibaly, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Ruben Neves, and Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr signed Mane, Otavio, Marcelo Brozovic, Laporte and Alex Telles.

Al-Ittihad brought in Benzema, Kante, and Fabinho and Al-Ahli’s signings included Firmino, Mahrez, Allan Saint-Maximin, Edouard Mendy, Franck Kessie, and Gabri Veiga.

Al-Ettifaq hired former Rangers and Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard as coach and signed ex-Liverpool captain Henderson before landing Gray before the window closed.

Saudi Arabia also has set foot in the Premier League after PIF bought Newcastle United in 2021, with its financial backing enabling the club to qualify for this season’s Champions League.

There is also speculation that Saudi Arabia will host the 2030 men’s soccer World Cup.

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TAGS:Sports NewsFootballFootball clubsSaudi ArabiaAl HilalNeymarKarim BenzemaCristiano RonaldoAl Nassr
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