The Saudi Arabia transfer window has closed after dominating summer 2023. Liverpool manoeuvred it well in the end. But Manchester United should be ashamed.
Check out all the Europe-based Saudi Pro League transfers, wages and rejecters from these ridiculous past few months, then cast your eye over the winners and losers in the Middle East.
Whoever it is in PIF who really enjoyed Liverpool’s 2019 Champions League final win
Every member of Liverpool’s starting line-up for the 2019 Champions League final is either still playing at Anfield or has moved to Saudi Arabia this summer. Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joel Matip, Virgil van Dijk, Andy Robertson and Mo Salah should probably pack their bags for next year.
It wasn’t particularly pretty for most of the window but Liverpool did receive well over £50m for a pair of midfielders well past their peak, while keeping a forward very much in the midst of his.
Fair play because it can’t have been too easy to reject a contract that would have paid him £9.17 a second.
Bit weird for a ‘mercenary’ to turn down an offer of £40m over two years but the Portuguese is a man of surprises; Fulham is the 46-year-old’s seventh managerial post, and currently the second-longest.
The hustle is there to be respected, with Al-Shabab’s proudest son living out his Saudi dream after securing the Chinese Super League bag for a couple of years at the height of that particular boom-bust cycle. See you back at Atleti in 2025, fella. And a cracking start at winning the new paymasters over by putting the country’s abysmal human rights record down to how “people can sometimes think badly about things”, adding: “I see how women live there, and how people go about their lives. It is hard to judge if you only listen to what people say about it. You have to experience it yourself.” And if anyone is getting a true slice of reality and what it’s like to live out in Saudi, it’s the footballers doubling up as ambassadors.
It is still not particularly clear whether he is any good but Malcom has been in the middle of three consecutive transfers worth at least £35m and that must mean something.
Side-stepped FFP by selling Kalidou Koulibaly and Edouard Mendy to Al-Hilal and Al-Ahli respectively for more than £30m, and still kept plenty of deadwood to shift out there to help with whichever fiscal year he so wishes. Chelsea might not even have to sell all their brilliant academy products to sign a load of Brazilian teenagers by then.
Al-Wehda, Abha and Al-Raed
The only Saudi Pro League clubs not to break their transfer record this summer. How exactly are we supposed to forget about all the bad stuff if you don’t sign some really expensive players?
Newly-appointed manager of the only Saudi club with a positive net spend over £1m in the window, which as everyone knows is all that really matters.
Good on him for chasing that dream of playing Champions League football again. Al-Hilal have drawn Nassaji Mazandaran of Iran, Indian champions Mumbai City and Uzbekistan’s Navbahor in their group and oh he didn’t mean the Asian version did he?
Already has four goals in three games for Al-Hilal, including a hat-trick.
One of three employees at Al-Ettifaq with a Premier League title winner’s medal; does Steven Gerrard know that doesn’t count as him owning one?
Genuinely impressive to join a league awash with such vast fortune, but on a reported wage of just under £30,000 a week. Perhaps he really did admire the Abha project.
Jordan Henderson’s grandchildren
Let’s just hope it’s worth it.
Assorted Premier League legends
Mathias Normann! Henry Onyekuru! Grzegorz Krychowiak! Georges-Kevin N’Koudou! Didier Ndong!
TRANSFER NEWS: Georges-Kévin Nkoudou🇨🇲 completes move to Damac club in the Saudi professional league. The Indomitable lion signs a two year deal. Makes switch from Besiktas. pic.twitter.com/IC6iPpk598
— Un Bami qui Tweete 🇨🇲 (@evrageraud) August 15, 2023
Whoever it is in PIF who really enjoyed Liverpool’s 2013/14 Premier League season
What’s the point in having unlimited money if you can’t persuade actual reported target Iago Aspas to sign for you at the age of 36?
It could have been so much worse if he didn’t have values and beliefs, but still.
The daft sods have made Neymar their best and highest-paid player without checking the fixture list first and realising they host reigning champions Al-Ittihad on March 7; everyone knows that’s birthday and thus timely suspension or injury season.
Imagine not getting four saunas, 26 bedrooms and two private jets. How embarrassing.
Sergej Milinkovic-Savic leaves Lazio after eight years and it’s not to move to Old Trafford? Not at least putting in a cursory bid for one of their greatest ever players is the worst thing they’ve done all summer aside from [REDACTED], selling Alex Telles for £4m to a country with absolutely no spending limits and [REDACTED].
Let his dissociative tears over Allan Saint-Maximin never be forgotten. Hell, if Newcastle’s form carries on he might be able to personally reconcile with his fallen comrade.
What sort of absolute nerd rejects a move to Al-Khaleej – the actual Al-Khaleej – over concerns about uprooting his young family or some such nonsense? Just be honest and say it’s because you’re not sure you can get Skittles vodka and Red Bull to wash down your ham-and-cheese omelettes in Saudi.
Moved to Al-Ittihad for £25m. Has not started a single game since, amid rumours of a fallout with Nuno Espirito Santo. Will reportedly be taken off the club’s list of eligible foreign players to make room for deadline day arrival Luiz Felipe. Oh mate.
We’re not angry, just disappointed. And a tiny bit angry.
Fulham know how much he loves a transfer U-turn and the selfish sods still didn’t let him do it.
Started the summer as the most expensive signing in Saudi Pro League history; ended it in 17th on that list.
The bloke loves paying taxes and his Mini Cooper is about to stick out like a sore thumb.
Those stepping stones to Liverpool are getting further away.