No end to pursuit of the world’s best players, Saudi Pro League official says

No End To Pursuit Of The World’s Best Players, Saudi Pro League Official Says
Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah, pictured, was a target for the Saudi Pro League in the summer, © PA Wire/PA Images
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By Jamie Gardner, PA Chief Sports Reporter

The Saudi Pro League will target players “of the highest level” in future transfer windows, its head of recruitment has said.

Top-flight Saudi Arabian clubs spent £701million to bring in talent from overseas in the summer,’ according to FIFA.


That figure could have been even bigger if bids from Saudi teams for Paris St Germain striker Kylian Mbappe and Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah had been accepted.

Paris St Germain striker Kylian Mbappe was the subject of a world record £259million bid from Saudi club Al Hilal in the summer
Paris St Germain striker Kylian Mbappe was the subject of a world record £259million bid from Saudi club Al Hilal in the summer (Adam Davy/PA)

Michael Emenalo, the league’s director of football and the man in charge of the country’s Player Acquisition Centre for Excellence (PACE), admitted the Saudi league had “competed aggressively” in the summer window and that the focus was now on top-quality additions.


“I’m hoping (the January transfer window) is not very busy, because I think the job that was done has been quite interesting and aggressive, and most of the clubs, I believe, have what they need,” the former Chelsea technical director said in an interview with the league’s in-house media team.

“And hopefully the attention will now turn to work within the training facilities to improve these players and to allow the time to adapt and perform.

“Now, whatever additional improvement that we need to do for any club, with time on our hands and preparation, we believe will be additions of the highest level.

“We will continue to support and to see every opportunity we have to bring more talented individuals that want to come to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that is open for business.”


Saudi clubs have always traditionally been one of the top recruiters of talent in Asia but Al Nassr’s signing of Cristiano Ronaldo in January of this year marked a gear shift and paved the way for other superstars to join the league.

Neymar, Karim Benzema, Riyad Mahrez, Ruben Neves and Sadio Mane are among the big names who subsequently moved to the kingdom in the summer.

Emenalo added: “These guys have been the best performers for a very long time in our industry. We’re very, very lucky to have them.


“I’ve always explained, privately and publicly, that top-level footballers are incredible and unique artists, and what they can do, you can only dream of until you try to do it, when you realise how difficult it is.

“Those guys are exceptional artists, and the artists as time goes on will be greatly appreciated and copied by youngsters in the country and that will be for the good of everyone.”

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