According to research that was conducted and published by Deloitte on Friday, Saudi Professional League (SPL) clubs shelled out a total of $957 million to acquire players during the offseason transfer window.
The Middle Eastern nation of Saudi Arabia spent more money during the transfer window, which concluded on September 7, than four of Europe’s ‘big five’ leagues combined. The Premier League was the only league that spent more money than Saudi Arabia.
“This marks the first time since 2016 that another international league has outspent any of Europe’s ‘big five’ during a football transfer window,” said Izzy Wray of Deloitte’s Sports Business Group. “This marks the first time that another international league has outspent any of Europe’s ‘big five’ during a football transfer window.”
“European football continues to be the standard by which the game is measured everywhere in the world, and the Saudi investment in the game will shift its focus towards infrastructure in order to raise the level of Asian football.”
The Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) made an announcement earlier this year regarding a Sports Clubs Investment and Privatization Project. The project will involve the league champions Al-Ittihad, Al-Ahli, Al-Nassr, and Al-Hilal, as well as a number of notable players transferring to the league.
PIF owns 75% of each of the four clubs, while the different non-profit foundations own 25% of each club. PIF is the majority shareholder in all four clubs.
Al-Hilal, the most successful club in Saudi Arabia, made the transfer move of the window by paying Paris Saint-Germain 90 million euros to acquire Neymar, a star player from Brazil. This was the biggest transfer move of the window.
Along with Neymar, Al-Hilal made significant financial investments in order to acquire Aleksandar Mitrovic, Kalidou Koulibaly, Ruben Neves, and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.
Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kante, and Fabinho were brought in by Saudi Pro League champions Al-Ittihad, while Otavio, Sadio Mane, Aymeric Laporte, Marcelo Brozovic, and Alex Telles were brought in by Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr. Al-Ittihad won the Saudi Pro League last season.
Gabri Veiga, Riyad Mahrez, Roberto Firmino, Edouard Mendy, Alain Saint-Maximin, and Merih Demiral are among the players that Al-Ahli signed after the club completed its season in the second division and returned to the Pro League. Al-Ahli also completed a series of signings throughout its season in the second division.
“The execution of the Kingdom’s privatization program is likely to draw a wave of interest around the SPL,” Wray added. “This could potentially fuel the existing spending pattern for the windows to come.”
“Despite the fact that the spending power of some of Europe’s “big five” clubs has already been surpassed by the Scottish Premier League, it is unknown what effect this will have on the composition of elite football for future generations.”
Despite all of the money it spent, the SPL was still unable to achieve some of its most important goals.
Al-Ittihad reportedly had a bid for 150 million pounds ($187.10 million) rejected down by the Premier League side Liverpool for Mohamed Salah, while Al-Hilal’s ambitious bids for Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe failed to materialize. Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah was a target for Al-Ittihad, who apparently had a bid worth 150 million pounds ($187.10 million) knocked down by the club.