From Portuguese great Cristiano Ronaldo to reigning Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema, the Saudi Pro League has emerged as the most preferred destination for a number of global football icons in the last few months. The Saudi clubs have been on a spending spree this summer. A report published by CNBC claimed that the Saudi sides have so far spent more than $1 billion in transfer fees. In an interaction with CNBC, the chief operating officer of the Saudi Pro League Carlo Nohra revealed that their aim is to become one of “the top 10 football leagues” globally. He said getting the big stars to Saudi Arabia is the first step of Saudi Arabia’s “extremely long-term” football strategy.
“While that helps us grow on the pitch, the idea is to grow off the pitch and to commercialize as well, so the strategy takes in every element that we need to focus on to get the Saudi Pro League to where it aspires to be among the top 10 leagues in the world,” Nohra said.
Ittihad’s French forward Karim Benzema gestures during the Saudi Pro League football match between Al Ittihad and Al Akhdoud at Prince Hathloul bin Abdulaziz Stadium in Najran. — AFP
Nohra revealed that the Saudi domestic league is also planning to build its global broadcasting presence. “Since the introduction of Cristiano Ronaldo into the league in January, we’ve seen global distribution expand to unprecedented levels for Saudi soccer, and through the acquisitions this summer, we’ve had renewals across the board with now the needle moving on the commercialisation of those rights across the world. So, we’re delighted with where we are at the moment but we still need to continue to deliver for fans across the world what they now wish to have from Saudi football,” he added.
The Saudi Pro League grabbed the headlines after Riyadh-based outfit Al Nassr roped in five-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo last season. The two-and-a-half-year contract with the Saudi side made the former Manchester United player the highest-paid player ever in the history of the game.
Hilal’s Brazilian forward Neymar warms up ahead of the Saudi Pro League football match between Al Hilal and Al Riyadh at Prince Faisal Bin Fahd Stadium in Riyadh. — AFP
Following Ronaldo’s arrival in Riyadh, many other prominent big names decided to join Saudi football clubs. A report published by Goal stated that more than 30 new players arrived in the Saudi Pro League from Europe during the summer transfer window.