A heroic XI of players who rejected ‘crazy’ Saudi Arabia riches this summer as window closes

Matt Stead
Bruno Fernandes and Son Heung-min battle for the ball
Bruno Fernandes and Son Heung-min turned Saudi Arabia down

The new Manchester United and Tottenham captains both rejected Saudi Arabia this summer, with others showing enough resistance to the Middle East money.

Saudi Arabia transfers: Deadline day sees remarkable retirement U-turn from Chelsea legend


Hugo Lloris
Tottenham have moved on with Guglielmo Vicario and Angeball but Lloris is yet to formalise his separation from his employers of the last 11 years. The Frenchman spent the summer knocking back offers in his mid-30s, rejecting Lazio, hometown club Nice and Saudi, the latter of whom promised to treble his current salary. Spurs might just sort the situation themselves.


Sergio Ramos
“I had the opportunity to continue in Paris for two years, but I didn’t see it. I have always been moved by impulses and heart. Not by money. That’s why I didn’t go to Arabia or the MLS,” said Ramos at his Sevilla unveiling, almost two decades after leaving the Spanish club.

“For me it was a dream to return here,” he added. “The time to return was now, as I could help the club in a delicate moment, and the economic issue has not been a problem because we solved it in five seconds.” The 37-year-old accepted a reported annual wage of €1m net – said to be almost 15 times less than the money on the Saudi table – to come back to his boyhood club after spells in Madrid and Paris.


The new Paris Saint-Germain contract signed in May came before Al-Nassr started sniffing around the club captain, but that interest never seemed to change anything for club or player.


David Alaba
If reports from Spain are to be believed – and Fichajes does weaken the credibility somewhat – then Real Madrid could have made £35m or so selling an excellent but injury prone 31-year-old. Alaba himself stood to earn more than £20m a year as opposed to his current Bernabeu pittance, but the Austrian has not quite reached that stage of his career just yet.


Angel Di Maria
“They called me from Saudi Arabia, I had many calls from them,” said Di Maria in August. “The numbers they are offering are crazy, but I chose with my heart, I wanted to return to Benfica.”

The Portuguese club’s president, Rui Costa, noted that “Di Maria’s salary doesn’t go over the salary cap”, “he came without any signing bonus” and “he didn’t want to know what his salary would be, he didn’t even ask for another euro”.

Some players earn a fortune while winning more than 30 trophies, including a World Cup and Champions League, and being called a ‘complete fanny’ by Manchester United, and are happy enough with their lot.


Aaron Ramsey
It would have been in keeping with a pretty miserable series of decisions made post-Arsenal for Ramsey to chase the Saudi coin. Since leaving north London the midfielder has had a well-remunerated few years on the Juventus bench, a mutually regrettable loan spell at Rangers and one unremarkable year at Nice. A season or two in the Middle East would have fit that sorry path perfectly.

But the Cardiff calling proved irresistible to Ramsey. “It wasn’t the right time or the right thing to do for me, my career and for my family,” he said. “I think obviously it depends on the individual situation. I think I’ve been very fortunate in my career that I’ve done OK so far. So there’s plenty of factors that go into people’s decisions, but I’ve made mine based on my situation.”

Top marks for the 32-year-old’s diplomatic answer, adding: “There’s plenty of benefits to that offer over there. It can be very appealing and probably depends on a lot of things, on what you’ve done financially, if you’re secure or not and things like that. For another individual, it might be life changing, but for me, being around my family and things like that is priceless. So you couldn’t put a figure on that. Obviously, there are financial rewards for going there – probably very rewarding – and a lot of players can’t see past that sort of thing.” Rambo certainly did and has scored twice in the Championship since returning, 15 years after his first goal in the competition.

Aaron Ramsey celebrates scoring

Aaron Ramsey just wanted to go home


Luka Modric
While there has been no public statement from Modric himself on the matter, Spanish media claimed back at the start of the summer transfer window that the midfielder received a Saudi offer which ‘covered the player in gold’. The €200m-a-year contract promised parity with Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema but the 37-year-old accepted a 12-month extension to his Real Madrid deal instead.


Bernardo Silva
Pep Guardiola’s pledge in February 2018 somehow remains unbroken. “He’ll stay a long time, while I’m here he will not move on, he will stay with me,” said the Manchester City manager of Silva, who spent yet another summer camped in the Etihad departures lounge before being beckoned back in with open arms.

Al-Hilal at least provided a change to the usual plot of Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain trying to extract Silva from Guardiola’s clutches, but it was still not to be. Jamie Carragher’s panicking was all for nought, which funnily enough is what the Saudis kept adding to a contract offer which reportedly reached as much as £800,000 a week.

The only deal Silva agreed was a renewal with Manchester City, so let’s meet back here in summer 2024 when he’s definitely off again.


Bruno Fernandes
With his promotion to captain an unconfirmed formality by that point, Bruno Fernandes had “crazy money” on the table to leave Manchester United for the Middle East. But in the words of chief Saudi Arabia transfer lickspittle Fabrizio Romano: “He feels that now finally the project at Manchester United is going to the next step.” Way to find the right answer with the wrong sums.


Robert Lewandowski
Completely spoiled for choice in the attacking positions, with such luminaries as Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi, Alvaro Morata, Romelu Lukaku, Antoine Griezmann, Jamie Vardy and Theo Walcott turning down the Saudi coin.

But Lewandowski gets the nod for his outspoken rejection of the riches on offer. “My contract with Barca still runs for a while. I see what is happening in Saudi Arabia but it doesn’t worry me, because I have other priorities at the moment.”


Heung-min Son
“I have many things to do in the Premier League. Money doesn’t matter to me now, and the pride of playing football, to play in my favourite league is important.”

As, obviously, is being Harry Kane’s replacement under Angeball. Son’s head was not turned by the thought of £25.6m a year, nor was Tottenham’s by £50m or so.