Gary Neville is calling on the Premier League to cease player transfers to Saudi Arabia until the league can ensure that the integrity of its competition is not compromised.
Notable players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, and N’Golo Kante have already joined the Saudi Pro League, mostly toward the end of their careers. Lionel Messi was also rumored to move there before his transfer to the United States.
The league is now showing interest in players at their peak, including Ruben Neves from Wolves, Kalidou Koulibaly and Hakim Ziyech from Chelsea, and Thomas Partey from Arsenal, demonstrating its ambition to become one of the top five leagues globally.
Neville and others are questioning the implications of this increasing activity. In June, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which owns Newcastle United, confirmed its acquisition of four leading clubs in the country, including Al-Nassr, who signed Ronaldo in December.
Concerns persist regarding whether PIF holds a stake in Chelsea’s owners, Clearlake Capital, although club sources deny any direct involvement.
“The Premier League should immediately impose a transfer embargo to Saudi Arabia to safeguard the integrity of the game,” Neville stated. He further emphasized the need to scrutinize the ownership structure at Chelsea to prevent improper transfer dealings.
Financial sustainability and fair play regulations are additional considerations. English clubs like Chelsea and Wolves face challenges in balancing their finances, with Chelsea having spent over £400 million in transfers last season and Wolves grappling with Financial Fair Play issues.
Wolves’ Ruben Neves, initially expected to join Barcelona, unexpectedly agreed to a £47 million move to Al Hilal. Sources within Chelsea insist that Saudi Arabia’s PIF has no financial interest in the club, but it’s acknowledged that PIF may be involved with Clearlake, a US private equity firm with numerous investors worldwide.
Although UEFA has not commented, multi-club ownership is permitted under their regulations. The Premier League, meanwhile, employs a fair value assessment system to ensure market-value transactions in both commercial deals and transfers.
Saudi Arabia has long had a strong interest in football, boasting a competitive league and a national team that has qualified for several World Cups and won multiple Asian Cups. Recent endeavors, such as hosting Formula 1 races and high-profile boxing matches, indicate the country’s growing presence in the sporting world.
The acquisition of Newcastle United and the investment in high-profile players align with Saudi Arabia’s efforts to project itself on the global stage. The Saudi Pro League aspires to improve its quality and visibility with the inclusion of star players.
While the Chinese Super League faced challenges regarding financial sustainability, the Saudi Pro League believes it has a more stable foundation due to government funding and long-term planning. The league has a strong fan base and aims to attract worldwide attention through marquee signings like Ronaldo.
The rise of the Saudi Pro League poses a challenge for European football, with concerns about losing prime players like Neves. European clubs may struggle to compete financially, especially when considering salary expenditures and adherence to financial regulations. Additionally, there are questions about the potential impact on the UEFA Champions League and whether clubs from outside Europe could be offered entry if the competition’s status is undermined.
Uefa President Aleksander Ceferin disagrees, suggesting that Saudi Arabian football should invest in academies, develop local players, and focus on winning top competitions, as the European tournaments remain the pinnacle of club football.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Premier League transfers, Saudi Arabia
Why is Gary Neville calling for the Premier League to stop transfers to Saudi Arabia?
Gary Neville is concerned about the integrity of the competition and wants assurance that the ownership structure in Saudi Arabia won’t compromise it.
Which high-profile players have already moved to Saudi Arabia?
Players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, and N’Golo Kante have joined the Saudi Pro League, mostly towards the end of their careers.
Are players at their peak also attracting interest from Saudi Arabia?
Yes, players like Ruben Neves, Kalidou Koulibaly, Hakim Ziyech, and Thomas Partey, who are still in their prime, have garnered interest from Saudi clubs.
Are financial sustainability and fair play regulations a concern?
Yes, clubs like Chelsea and Wolves face challenges in adhering to financial fair play rules while balancing their books amidst significant spending.
Is there any involvement of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) in Chelsea’s ownership?
Club sources deny direct involvement, but there are questions about PIF’s potential stake in Clearlake Capital, Chelsea’s ultimate owners.
Is multi-club ownership permitted by UEFA?
UEFA has not commented specifically, but multi-club ownership is not prohibited by their regulations.
How does the rise of the Saudi Pro League impact European football?
There are concerns about losing prime players like Ruben Neves and the potential strain on European clubs’ finances and compliance with financial regulations.
What is Uefa President Aleksander Ceferin’s perspective on this?
Ceferin believes Saudi Arabian football should focus on developing local talent and winning top competitions rather than relying on end-of-career player acquisitions.
Is the Saudi Pro League similar to the Chinese Super League?
While the Chinese Super League faced financial sustainability challenges, the Saudi Pro League believes it has more secure funding and long-term plans.
Will the rise of the Saudi Pro League affect the UEFA Champions League?
There are questions about the potential impact on the Champions League and whether clubs from outside Europe may be offered entries if the competition’s status is undermined.
More about Premier League transfers, Saudi Arabia
- Gary Neville urges Premier League to stop Saudi Arabia transfers
- Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund confirms takeover of leading clubs
- Financial Fair Play rules in the Premier League
- UEFA’s regulations on multi-club ownership
- The rise of the Saudi Pro League and its impact on European football
- Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin’s comments on Saudi Arabian football