Aleksander Ceferin: UEFA President Mocks Saudi Pro League

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UEFA president Alexander Ceferin has once again disregarded the influence of the Saudi Pro League on European football.

Several high-profile players have joined the Saudi Arabian top-flight division within the past 12 months, and it appears more signings will still be made.

Saudi Pro League clubs have made in-roads into the European football market this summer, signing players by offering enticing contracts and paying mouth-watering transfer fees.

Recall in June 2023 that Ceferin claimed that Saudi Arabia are making the same mistakes made by China.

China made their presence felt in the transfer market from the mid-2010s till the late 2010s, making signings for huge amounts that reverberated the media space.

Unfortunately, their electric drive couldn’t stand the test of time, as financial restrictions hampered them from continuing their bullish transfer style.

Aleksander Ceferin on the Saudi Pro League
Aleksander Ceferin still maintains his stance on Saudi Arabia’s football strategy

However, despite Saudi Pro League clubs still making notable signings this summer, Aleksander Ceferin still maintains his previous stance.

Speaking in an interview with L’Equipe, Ceferin stated that Saudi Arabia aren’t a “threat” to European football, as China also took a similar route.

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Aleksander Ceferin comments on the Saudi Pro League

He said: “They bought players at the end of their careers by offering them a lot of money. 

“Chinese football didn’t develop and didn’t qualify for the World Cup afterward.”

The 55-year-old claims that the strategy adopted by Saudi Arabia isn’t the right way to go, stressing that they should instead focus on “player and coach development.”

Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to the Saudi Pro League in December 2022 was the first move that signaled the aggressive recruitment drive from Saudi Arabia.

Following Ronaldo’s arrival, several other big names have also moved to Saudi Arabia, including; N’Golo Kante, Neymar, and Karim Benzema.

Saudi Arabia were so daring that they attempted to lure Lionel Messi to the league, and if that deal had happened, that would have seen the two greatest players in this era playing in the Gulf state.

There is this seeming financial freedom with Saudi Arabia which has seen them eschew bravado in the transfer market.

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However, spending by Chinese Super League clubs as earlier revealed became limited due to a transfer tax imposed in 2017.

With Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Pro League have a long-term investment strategy that they expect to reap remarkable dividend in the coming years.

The Saudi Arabian top-flight football division have also brought on board Michael Emenalo to spearhead its acquisition and youth development strategy.

Michael Emenalo on Saudi Pro League’s football project

Emenalo would be working as director of football for the Pro League, and he has also spoken highly about the projects and plans of the league.

In an interview following his appointment, the former Chelsea technical director said: 

“It is not a spur-of-the-moment decision; it is well thought out. 

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“I’m impressed with the knowledge and the input that’s gone into this, and I think it’s a boost for our industry as a whole.”

Despite Aleksander Ceferin pouring cold water on the influence made by Saudi Arabia, Pep Guardiola notes the impact of the Pro League in the transfer market.

Guardiola expresses that Saudi Arabia’s financial muscle has altered the transfer market, and European clubs must not turn a blind eye to it.

The Spaniard has already witnessed the departure of Riyad Mahrez and Aymeric Laporte from Manchester City this summer.

However, despite the massive departure of players from the Premier League to the Pro League this summer, stakeholders in the division appear unperturbed.

Ruben Neves, Aleksandar Mitrovic, Kalidou Koulibaly, Jordan Henderson, Allan Saint-Maximin, and Alex Telles, to name a few, are high-profile players who moved to the Saudi Pro League this summer from the Premier League.

The Chief Executive of the Premier League Richard Masters has revealed that he is unbothered about Saudi Arabia’s developing influence in football.

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