28 July 2023

Which players have joined the Saudi Pro League exodus so far?

28 July 2023

Jordan Henderson and Riyad Mahrez are the latest big-name players to complete the switch to the Saudi Pro League this summer.

Top target Kylian Mbappe appears to have snubbed an approach from Al Hilal, but that has not halted a powerful recruitment drive by the oil-rich PIF-owned Saudi clubs as the league looks to establish itself among the best in the world.

Here, the PA news agency looks at 12 players to have made the move to the Middle East.

Cristiano Ronaldo – Al-Nassr

After his acrimonious departure from Manchester United, five-time Ballon D’Or winner Ronaldo headed to Saudi Arabia as a statement signing that told the footballing world the league meant business.

Karim Benzema – Al-Ittihad

Reigning Ballon D’Or winner Benzema followed his former Real Madrid team-mate, leaving the Spanish capital after his contract expired having won five Champions League titles during his stay.

Jordan Henderson – Al-Ettifaq

Former Liverpool captain Henderson has signed a three-year deal worth a reported £700,000 a week, leaving Anfield after 12 years to link back up with former team-mate Steven Gerrard, who is now the Saudi club’s manager.

Riyad Mahrez – Al-Ahli

Mahrez is the latest high-profile SPL recruit after Manchester City agreed a deal worth up to £30m for the Algeria winger, who had two years remaining on his contract and cost the English club £60m in 2018.

N’Golo Kante – Al-Ittihad

Like his fellow France international Benzema, Kante headed for the Gulf on a free transfer as he opted to leave Chelsea at the end of his deal, albeit with considerable concerns over his fitness.

Kalidou Koulibaly – Al Hilal

Having spent just a single season at Stamford Bridge, Senegal centre-back Koulibaly departed Chelsea for a fee in the region of £20m and with a team-mate and compatriot not far behind.

Ruben Neves – Al-Hilal

Portugal international Neves had helped Wolves out of the Sky Bet Championship before enjoying five Premier League campaigns at Molineux, establishing himself as one of the highest-regarded midfielders in the division – something that earned him a reported £47million move.

Edouard Mendy – Al-Ahli

Mendy lost his place as first-choice goalkeeper at Chelsea having arrived at the club in 2020. He made just 10 Premier League appearances last season before opting for a move to Saudi Arabia.

Marcelo Brozovic – Al-Nassr

Brozovic bowed out of Inter Milan after captaining the Serie A side in their Champions League final loss to Manchester City, the 30-year-old Croatia midfielder heading to Saudi after eight seasons and five major trophies in Italy.

Roberto Firmino – Al-Ahli

The highest-scoring Brazilian in Premier League history, Firmino enjoyed a long and emotional goodbye to the Liverpool supporters, among whom he was a firm favourite after eight years at Anfield.

Jota – Al-Ittihad

Having hit 15 goals to help Celtic win a domestic treble, former Portugal youth international Jota clearly caught the eye of the money-men in Saudi Arabia and made the £25m move at the start of July.

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic – Al-Hilal

Lazio’s player of the season in 2020-21 and 2021-22, Milinkovic-Savic had been touted as a midfielder who would make his mark at the highest level of European football. Now, though, he will be turning out in the Saudi Pro League after a reported £34.3m switch.

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox