English football has often been the go-to destination for Europe’s top players in recent summers, but the Premier League has seen an exodus of established names this time around.
The emergence of the Saudi Pro League, free agency, and a desire for more prominent roles has seen several stars depart the division in search of a new challenge.
Here are eight big-name players who’ve left the Premier League this summer.
Jordan Henderson has called time on his long Liverpool career to join the mass of talent headed to the Middle East this summer. A phone call from former team-mate Steven Gerrard – alongside a refusal from Jurgen Klopp to guarantee regular minutes as Liverpool reboot in midfield – has seen Henderson sign for Al-Ettifaq.
He departs having captained Liverpool to the Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup and Club World Cup triumphs, after being handed the armband following the departure of Liverpool legend and now-manager Gerrard.
An emotional farewell from the Reds to the skipper ❤️ pic.twitter.com/F8yBeC7iQW
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) July 27, 2023
Winner of the FWA Footballer of the Year as Liverpool won a first league title in 30 years in 2019/20, Gareth Southgate will be keeping a close eye on his progress as Euro 2024 approaches next summer.
The 33-year-old has faced criticism for his decision to move to Saudi Arabia – a nation where same-sex relationships are illegal – given his public alliance with the LGBT community.
Wilfried Zaha has decided on a new challenge after leaving Crystal Palace on a free transfer, bringing an end to his long career with the club. The 30-year-old made 458 appearances across two spells with the Eagles, having first joined the club’s academy system aged eight.
Established as one of Palace’s all-time greats, Zaha’s desire to test himself at a higher level has led to a free transfer move to Galatasaray. The Turkish side won a record-extending 23rd Süper Lig title and will compete in the Champions League next season, where Zaha will form part of an exciting forward line alongside Mauro Icardi and Nicolo Zaniolo.
Thank you for the love can’t wait to get out there and show you what I can do 🙌🏿❤️ pic.twitter.com/NKp4nTXIrc
— Wilfried Zaha (@wilfriedzaha) July 31, 2023
Manchester City’s magical Algerian has waved farewell to the Premier League this summer, signing for Saudi side Al-Ahli in a £30m deal.
Mahrez leaves the division as one of the division’s great right-wingers, having been the star of Leicester’s title-winning campaign in 2015/16 before a decorated spell at Manchester City.
Today marks the end of an unforgettable chapter in my life, a five-year journey filled with countless memories. Before leaving, I wanted to thank the board, the manager and the staff for giving me the chance to prove myself at the highest level.
To my teammates,… pic.twitter.com/81mVXGoKrH
— Riyad Mahrez (@Mahrez22) July 28, 2023
The 32-year-old won four league titles, five domestic cups and the Champions League at the Etihad, impressing as Pep Guardiola’s side dominated the division. He departs with 82 goals and 62 assists in the Premier League, the latter a record for an African player.
Ilkay Gundogan is another big name to have left Manchester City this summer, with last season’s treble success representing mission accomplished for many of the club’s long-serving stars.
Gundogan turned down a new deal with the Citizens in favour of a move to Barcelona, where he will feature in an impressive midfield line-up alongside Frenkie de Jong, Pedri and Gavi next season.
— Ilkay Gündogan (@IlkayGuendogan) July 30, 2023
So often the man for the big occasion for Manchester City, Gundogan’s final season will be immortalised after captaining the club to a historic treble, an achievement which included a match-winning brace in the FA Cup final win over Manchester United.
Liverpool’s midfield rebuild has materialised quicker than most anticipated, with the Saudi spending having led to the sales of Henderson and Fabinho. The latter endured a difficult campaign last term, but has been one of the pillars on which the club’s recent success has been built.
The Brazil international’s best seasons at Liverpool saw Fabinho regarded as one of the world’s best midfield anchors, but the Reds felt a £40m offer from Al-Ittihad was too good to turn down for a player who showed signs of decline last season and who will turn 30 in October.
Fabinho will form a midfield axis with N’Golo Kante in the Middle East.
Get past them if you can.
— Fabinho (@_fabinhotavares) August 1, 2023
N’Golo Kante will partner Fabinho in the engine room for Al-Ittihad after completing a free transfer move to the Saudi Pro League from Chelsea.
He departs English football as one of the most celebrated midfielders of the last decade, a brilliant box-to-box performer who was so integral to successes at Leicester and Chelsea. Kante burst onto the scene as the Foxes won the Premier League title in 2015/16, before scooping the PFA Player of the Year award and another league winners’ medal after a transfer to Chelsea.
N’Golo Kante, an all-time great. 💫 pic.twitter.com/Badu44Jz8s
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) June 21, 2023
Since then the indefatigable Frenchman has won the World Cup with France and several honours at Chelsea, including the 2021 Champions League which saw Kante star in the competition’s latter rounds.
Al-Ahli have shopped in the Premier League for a new forward line and have put together an all-star cast that will torment Saudi Pro League defences next season.
Roberto Firmino is set to lead the line, where he will be flanked by Riyad Mahrez and Allan Saint-Maximim. The former signed for Al Ahli after an illustrious career at Liverpool, one which saw Firmino described as the ‘engine’ of Jurgen Klopp’s side.
Roberto Firmino has played his final match at Anfield after eight memorable seasons with @LFC 👋
— Premier League (@premierleague) May 22, 2023
The Brazil international scored 111 goals in all competitions for Liverpool and became a firm favourite at Anfield for his mix of work-ethic, selfless link-up and showmanship.
Firmino scored twice as Al-Ahli recorded an 18-0 victory against Austrian minnows USV Stuhlfelden in pre-season. Tougher tests are expected when the relaunched Saudi Pro League season gets underway.
It’s fair to say Granit Xhaka’s career at Arsenal was a rollercoaster ride.
The ups and downs of Xhaka saw the midfielder famously stripped of the captaincy after a public bust-up with the club’s fans, before completing a remarkable turnaround to depart as a firm fans’ favourite.
The Switzerland international was a key performer as the Gunners pushed for the Premier League title last season, but leaves as Arsenal move in a new direction following the £105m arrival of Declan Rice from West Ham.
— Bayer 04 Leverkusen (@bayer04_en) August 1, 2023
Xhaka has signed for Bayer Leverkusen in a £21.4m deal, returning the Bundesliga after a previous spell at Borussia Monchengladbach.