A Saudi Arabian football marketing official wants Mohamed Salah in the Saudi Pro League; Liverpool has been warned that no player is off limits for the ambitious project.
Saudi Arabian football official Hafez Al-Medlej has called on the Saudi Pro League to ‘start working on the signing’ of Liverpool superstar Mohamed Salah, in addition to Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva, as the country continues its assault on European football.
Cristiano Ronaldo kicked off the Saudi Pro League’s ambitious surge in late December when he joined Al-Nassr. Karim Benzema and N’Golo Kante have since traded Europe for Al-Ittihad, while Ruben Neves in the verge of joining Al-Hilal, the same club that made an offer to Lionel Messi.
Chelsea pair Hakim Ziyech and Kalidou Kouliably are in talks to be next, on course to join Al-Nassr and Al-Hilal respectively, and could be followed by Stamford Bridge colleagues Edouard Mendy and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should further talks prove successful.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), the same group that is Newcastle’s majority shareholder, recently took control of the league’s four biggest clubs, suggesting that the stream of huge investments is not going to slow down any time soon.
Al-Medlej is a former head of AFC’s marketing committee, having also been an executive board member of the confederation, head of marketing of the Saudi Pro League from 2008 until 2014, and a board member of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation for 13 years.
“All transferable footballers will from now on be targeted by Saudi clubs,” he told Koura, going on to insist that the Saudi Pro League boom will not fizzle out like the Chinese Super League famously did.
“The experience of China has nothing to do with us, theirs was purely marketing,” Al-Medlej added. “Soccer there is not the most popular. In Arabia, we have a state project and it will not be limited to four great teams, but to all of them. Because of their passion for football, the Saudis have no limits.
“We do not hire players who are already finished. Al-Hilal is going to sign Ruben Neves, who is 26 years old and who Barcelona wanted. And Benzema has already arrived at Al-Ittihad after being crowned the Ballon d’Or with Real Madrid, who is faced with the dilemma of replacing him.”
“The departure of the big stars from Europe will be a hard blow for the Champions League and the tournament will lose much of its brilliance. We have an example in La Liga. They lost a lot with the transfer of Ronaldo to Juventus. And then they lost more when Messi went to Paris Saint-Germain.
“The departure of the stars from Europe will affect sponsorship and television contracts. Messi is the best footballer at the moment and his incorporation would have provided great value. But we are not going to compensate him with a substitute player.
“Let’s hope that Bernardo Silva, from Manchester City, arrives. We must also start working on the signing of Mohamed Salah since he is overwhelmingly popular in the Arab world and Europe. I think Salah still has records to break with Liverpool, so I hope if he doesn’t come now, he will in the future.”