The Saudi Pro League transfer window has slammed shut and it’s fair to say the division made its mark on the sport this summer.
Saudi sides spent around £700m on new additions as the nation’s Public Investment Fund spent big in a bid to grow the league, with only the Premier League, Ligue 1 and La Liga spending more on new signings.
Premier League players were popular with Saudi sides in search of new additions, as 13 names departed English football for the Middle East.
Every Premier League to Saudi Pro League transfer made this summer:
Kalidou Koulibaly – Chelsea to Al-Hilal
Kalidou Koulibaly’s short spell at Chelsea proved underwhelming, with the 32-year-old failing to live up to expectations after his arrival from Napoli last summer. Once the most coveted centre-back in Europe, the Senegal captain was shipped out to Saudi Arabia after just one season in the Premier League.
Edouard Mendy – Chelsea to Al-Ahli
Edouard Mendy lost his place in the Chelsea team last season and has moved on in search of regular first-team football. The Senegalese shot-stopper – who was named as The Best FIFA Men’s Goalkeeper and the UEFA Champions League Goalkeeper of the Season as Chelsea won the competition in 2021 – has joined Al-Ahli for a fee of around £16m.
N’Golo Kante – Chelsea to Al-Ittihad
N’Golo Kante turned down a new contract at Chelsea to sign for Al-Ittihad this summer, bringing the curtain down on a decorated career at Stamford Bridge.
Kante has reunited with former France teammate Karim Benzema in the Saudi Pro League and the World Cup winner will be keen to bounce back from the fitness issues that have plagued him in recent seasons.
— دوري روشن السعودي (@SPL) August 28, 2023
Demarai Gray – Everton to Al-Ettifaq
Demarai Gray has left Everton to join Saudi Pro League side Al-Ettifaq, following a public fall-out with manager Sean Dyche. The winger appeared to hit out at the Blues boss on social media, saying “it’s so difficult to play for someone who don’t show you respect as a person”.
He got his wish to move on before the Saudi deadline and has linked up with the Steven Gerrard managed Al-Ettifaq.
Aleksandar Mitrovic – Fulham to Al-Hilal
Aleksandar Mitrovic kicked up a fuss at Fulham and eventually got his wish with move to Al-Hilal, who spent a fee in the region of £50m to land the Serbia striker.
Mitrovic’s sale represents a club-record sale for the Cottagers, though replacing his goals will prove difficult after the 28-year-old scored 111 times across his five-and-a-half seasons in west London.
He joins international teammate Sergej Milinković-Savić and Neymar in joining Asia’s most decorated club this summer.
This is some hit by Aleksandar Mitrovic ⚽ pic.twitter.com/uN7F31ITcj
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) September 2, 2023
Fabinho – Liverpool to Al-Ittihad
Fabinho had not been expected to form part of Liverpool’s midfield departures this summer, but a big bid from Al-Ittihad persuaded the Reds to cash in on the Brazilian.
The 29-year-old had shown signs of decline last season and the £40m fee proved tempting to Liverpool, who reinvested into their midfield with the signings of Alexis Mac Allister, Dominik Szoboszlai, Wataru Endo and Ryan Gravenberch.
Jordan Henderson – Liverpool to Al-Ettifaq
Jordan Henderson has linked up with former Liverpool teammate Steven Gerrard at Al-Ettifaq, signing a three-year deal with the club after an ‘honest’ conversation with Jurgen Klopp regarding his reduced role in the squad this season.
The 33-year-old has received criticism for his decision to move to Saudi Arabia, where homosexuality is illegal, given his long-held support for the LGBTQ+ community. Henderson this week addressed his decision and the backlash he has received.
Jordan Henderson has said his move to Saudi Arabia wasn’t motivated by money 🗣 pic.twitter.com/0FT2Z5yJMw
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) September 5, 2023
Roberto Firmino – Liverpool to Al-Ahli
Liverpool have lost an abundance of experience with Roberto Firmino also departing after an illustrious career with the Reds.
Firmino decided to move on in search of a new challenge when his contract expired this summer, leaving Liverpool after seven trophies and 111 goals since signing from Hoffenheim in 2015. The Brazil international has been named as captain of Al-Ahli for the new season.
Riyad Mahrez – Manchester City – Al-Ahli
Riyad Mahrez will join Firmino in Al-Ahli’s new-look frontline, having signed from Manchester City for a fee of £30m.
Mahrez won 11 major trophies in five seasons with the Cityzens, including last season’s treble success under Pep Guardiola. The Algerian previously won the title at Leicester and departs English football having provided 143 goals and assists in 284 Premier League games.
Al-Ahli were promoted back into the Saudi Pro League ahead of the new season, having suffered a first-ever relegation in 2021/22.
Aymeric Laporte – Manchester City – Al-Nassr
Aymeric Laporte’s reduced role at Manchester City saw the defender move on this summer, signing for Al-Nassr.
The centre-back had been linked with a return to Spain after Josko Gvardiol’s arrival at the Etihad, but instead chose a new challenge in the Saudi Pro League. Laporte will count ex-Premier League icons Cristiano Ronaldo and Sadio Mane among his new teammates.
Alex Telles – Manchester United to Al-Nassr
Alex Telles will also join Laporte at Al-Nassr, having joined the club from Manchester United.
The Brazil international spent last season on loan at Sevilla and was deemed surplus to requirements at Old Trafford.
Allan Saint-Maximin – Newcastle to Al-Ahli
Allan Saint-Maximin swapped Newcastle for Al-Ahli, with the latter paying a fee of £23m to land the fleet-footed Frenchman.
A popular figure at Newcastle, Saint-Maximim moves on after struggling for a regular role under Eddie Howe and will form part of a tantalising front three alongside Roberto Firmino and Riyad Mahrez. It is a tricky trio likely to cause countless problems for Saudi Pro League defences.
— Roshn Saudi League (@SPL_EN) August 29, 2023
Ruben Neves – Wolves to Al-Hilal
Ruben Neves had talked up his dream of playing Champions League football when considering leaving Wolves, but the riches on offer from the Saudi Pro League persuaded the Portugal midfielder to sign up for the ambitious project.
“To give my family the life I always dreamed of for them, this was, for me, the main reason that made me have no doubts about accepting this proposal,” Neves said on the move.
“I have three children and a wife. Taking care of them is my biggest trophy.
“The project, Al Hilal being the best club in Asia. Since the news started to come, my social media went crazy, it was unbelievable to see the amount of fans Al Hilal have and how passionate they are for football as well so it was a good decision for me and my family I’m sure.”