Clubs who profited most from Saudi Pro League spending

  • Four Saudi Pro League clubs were taken over by the Saudi PIF
  • Al Hilal were the league's biggest spenders this summer
  • Numerous Premier League clubs, including Man City and Liverpool, benefitted from Saudi sales

Neymar became the latest superstar to join the Saudi Pro League
Neymar became the latest superstar to join the Saudi Pro League / Anadolu Agency/GettyImages
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Saudi Arabia's determination to emerge as a legitimate sphere of influence in the sporting world started long before the increased prominence of the Pro League.

Nevertheless, a major step was taken by authorities in June as it was revealed that the Saudi Public Investment Fund, which holds an 80% share in Newcastle, would take control of the country's 'big four' football clubs; Al Ahli, Al Hilal, Al Ittihad and Al Nassr.

That decision turned a projected summer spending spree from Saudi clubs into an assault, with more than 90% of the Pro League's near £800m outlay being splurged by the aforementioned foursome. We know who the primary spenders were, but who were the major financial beneficiaries back in Europe?

Here are the clubs who earned the most in player sales by dealing with Saudi clubs this summer.


9. Celta Vigo (£34.4m)

Gabri Veiga
Gabril Veiga was linked with a move to Napoli before joining Al Ahli / Quality Sport Images/GettyImages

Gabri Veiga's move to Al Ahli occurred late in the window, but it was the deal that arguably concerned European spectators the most. Saudi clubs have generally targeted unwanted stars or players beyond their apex, but Veiga had been regarded as one of La Liga's brightest talents.

His work from midfield and final-day heroics ensured Celta Vigo stayed up, and although he was expected to move on this summer, for a long time it looked as if he would be heading to Serie A champions Naples.

Yet, a move to the Scudetto holders never transpired, instead joining newly promoted Al Ahli.

Player

Joined

Fee

Gabri Veiga

Al Ahli

£34.4m


8. Lazio (£34.4m)

Al Ittihad v Al Hilal - Saudi Pro League
SMS finally departed Lazio / Khalid Alhaj/MB Media/GettyImages

The Serbian maestro had perpetually been linked with a move away from the Eternal City. However, if Milinkovic-Savic was ever going to leave Lazio, it was thought that a club of Juventus' standing was to be his next destination.

The towering midfielder instead gave up his lofty reputation in Rome in order to enjoy the riches of the Gulf. He's the first of several players on this list who joined Al Hilal, the Saudi Pro League's biggest spenders.

In his place, Lazio shrewdly acquired free agent Daichi Kamada.

Player

Joined

Fee

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic

Al Hilal

£34.4m


7. Fulham (£45.2m)

Aleksandar Mitrovic
Mitrovic opted for the riches of the Gulf / Francois Nel/GettyImages

The Saudis sought to tear Fulham apart in the summer. After manager Marco Silva rejected an advance from Al Ahli to be their manager, Al Hilal then moved for leading forward Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Once the Saudi interest had been documented, the striker's mind was made up. He was done in west London.

And while it did look as if Mitrovic would remain at Fulham, the Serb eventually got his wish after the two clubs agreed on a reported £45.2m fee.

Player

Joined

Fee

Aleksandar Mitrovic

Fulham

£45.2m


6. Wolves (£47.3m)

Ruben Neves
Neves' decision to join the Saudi Pro League stunned many / Francois Nel/GettyImages

While Veiga's departure late in the window stunned many, Ruben Neves' move to Al Hilal was an early shocker.

Neves had blossomed into a bona fide star and a Portugal international at Wolverhampton Wanderers. It was thought that the elegant midfielder would eventually join a member of Europe's elite.

Neves might yet wind up in the hands of a (UEFA) Champions League regular, but he won't be taking a direct path from Molineux. Instead, he'll be coming via the Saudi Pro League after Al Hilal broke the Saudi transfer record to sign him.

Player

Joined

Fee

Ruben Neves

Al Hilal

£47.3m


5. Porto (£51.6m)

Otavio
Al Nassr splurged €60m to sign Otavio from Porto / Diogo Cardoso/GettyImages

This was perhaps one of the most curious moves made by a Saudi club in the summer.

While Otavio had been a relatively reliable and consistent performer for Porto over several years, he hadn't garnered much interest from Europe's top clubs, yet Al Nassr were overwhelmingly convinced by him.

Cristiano Ronaldo's team splashed out £51.6m to sign the playmaker this summer after Otavio enjoyed his most productive campaign in Portugal last season, racking up 12 Primeira Liga goal contributions.

Player

Joined

Fee

Otavio

Al Nassr

£51.6m


4. Zenit (£51.6m)

Malcom
Journeyman Malcom left Zenit for a big fee / Francois Nel/GettyImages

Malcom is perhaps the quintessential distillation of a Saudi Pro League player. After struggling to make a name for himself at Barcelona, the Brazilian winger went on to enjoy a productive spell at Zenit Saint Petersburg, although the Russian club have been firmly thrust out of the limelight in recent times.

Thus, very few took notice of Malcom's work out in Russia which could've earned him a route back to Europe's aristocracy. He scored 23 goals in 27 league games last season.

Nevertheless, the free-spending Al Hilal opted to acquire the Zenit star, sending £51.6m the Russian club's way. Malcom has subsequently started the 2023/24 Saudi Pro League season on fire, and he'll undoubtedly play a key role in their title bid.

Player

Joined

Fee

Malcom

Al Hilal

£51.6m


3. Liverpool (£52.1m)

Anthony Taylor, Jordan Henderson, Fabinho
Liverpool lost two members of their apex midfield under Jurgen Klopp / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

While Saudi clubs spent big, European sides weren't torn apart as a result. Only a few teams saw multiple players depart for the Gulf this summer.

One of those was Liverpool, who lost midfielders Jordan Henderson and Fabinho to Al Ettifaq and Al Ittihad respectively. Both, however, were unlikely to play big roles for Jurgen Klopp's side moving forward, with their departures largely welcomed by supporters as Liverpool garnered over £50m for their sales.

The moves ensured Henderson would fulfil his lifelong ambition of ushering forward the development of Saudi football. He definitely didn't leave for the money, okay?

Player

Joined

Fee

Fabinho

Al Ittihad

£40.1m

Jordan Henderson

Al Ettifaq

£12m


2. Manchester City (£53.7m)

Aymeric Laporte, Riyad Mahrez
Coming to a Saudi Pro League near you / Craig Mercer/MB Media/GettyImages

Like Liverpool, City were pretty content losing two of its stars to Saudi Arabia.

While Riyad Mahrez had played a significant role for Pep Guardiola's treble winners in 2022/23, the Algerian was regarded as disposable and Aymeric Laporte only sporadically featured towards the end of his City career.

Still, it just feels wrong that a man of Laporte's profile exited the club for a meagre £23.6m given just how precious left-footed centre-backs are in modern football.

Player

Joined

Fee

Riyad Mahrez

Al Ahli

£30.1m

Aymeric Laporte

Al Nassr

£23.6m


1. Paris Saint Germain (£84.2m)

Neymar Jr
Neymar finally escaped "hell" and moved to Al Hilal / Adam Nurkiewicz/GettyImages

An argument could be made for only a few of these clubs actually benefitting from Saudi spending given the calibre of players they saw depart, but there's no doubt that Paris Saint-Germain were a major beneficiary.

The French club are moving into a new era with Luis Enrique at the helm, and they wanted to cut ties with Neymar this summer. However, moving him on was no easy task before Al Hilal offered the player the keys to the world and PSG £77.3m.

The poor Brazilian escaped Parisian "hell" for Saudi luxury as he became the next poster boy for the Saudi Pro League's increased relevance. Oh, and Gini Wijnaldum teamed up with Henderson and Steven Gerrard at Al Ettifaq, too.

Player

Joined

Fee

Neymar

Al Hilal

£77.3m

Gini Wijnaldum

Al Ettifaq

£6.9m


READ MORE ON THE PLAYERS LINKED TO SAUDI ARABIA & THE MONEY ON OFFER

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