Saudis line up another summer of big spending

February 29 – Saudi clubs will return to the transfer market in the summer window to challenge Europe for more big signings, according to a leading Saudi Pro League executive.

Vice-chair Saad Al-Lazeez told the FT Football business conference that the country would continue to pump money into the sport following a spate of high-profile signings.

“This is a long-term investment. We are not in it for a season,” he told the annual forum. “We are pleased with what has been achieved so far.”

Last year Saudi clubs spent more than €800 million on new players following on from Cristiano Ronaldo’s arrival in January 2023.

Outlining the kingdom’s global strategy Al-Lazeez defended the high salaries paid to stars like Ronaldo, Neymar and Karim Benzema

“You have to start somewhere, and sometimes you have to overcompensate,” Al-Lazeez said. “The prices will justify themselves by the returns on the investment that we are going to assume in years to come.”

Despite the huge sums being paid, the league has struggled with low attendances with average crowds of just over 8,000.  Al-Lazeez acknowledged that this was a “huge area for improvement”.

Asian football expert Alex Phillips, who used to work at UEFA, downplayed the suggestion that Saudi Arabia could end up housing one of the biggest leagues in the world to challenge the current so-called Big Five in Europe.

“You need to develop your own players and that means a very strong culture and infrastructure,” said Phillips.

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1711678011labto1711678011ofdlr1711678011owedi1711678011sni@w1711678011ahsra1711678011w.wrd1711678011na1711678011

 


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