Premier League Should Put An “Embargo” On Transfers To Saudi Arabia – Gary Neville

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Gary Neville has requested for the Premier League to halt the transfer of players to Saudi Arabia until it is certain the uprightness of its competition is not being wriggled in uncertainty.

Several big names stars have already penned mammoth deals in Saudi Arabia with more still expected to be made.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and N’Golo Kante have already moved to Saudi Arabia.

These players are big name stars although they are at the twilight of their footballing careers.

Players who are at their prime are also being courted as Saudi Arabia intends to improve the competitive level of its top-flight football division.

Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Ruben Neves, Chelsea’s Kalidou Koulibaly and Arsenal’s Thomas Partey have also been strongly linked with a move to the Middle East.

Based on these realities, Gary Neville is also wondering what all these possible transfer dealings indicate.

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which owns Newcastle United, revealed in June that it was taking ownership of four leading teams in the gulf country.

These clubs include Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al Nassr, Pro League winners Al Ittihad, Asian Champions League finalist Al Hilal and lastly Al Ahli.

There are strong rumors that the PIF have some ties with Chelsea due to the club’s ownership, the private equity firm Clearlake Capital.

Premier League Club deny Saudi Arabia links

However, reports from the West London side have debunked all the stories of a direct involvement.

Speaking with the BBC concerning these ongoing events, Gary Neville shared his two cents on the matter.

The Premier League legend and pundit beckoned to the league to suspend any potential transfers to Saudi Arabia.

Neville said: “The Premier League should put an instant embargo on transfers to Saudi Arabia to ensure the integrity of the game isn’t being damaged.”

He called for thorough investigation to be made over the sanctity of the deals being done.

Premier League Saudi Arabia
Gary Neville appears to be perturbed by Saudi Arabia transfer dealings

The 48-year-old said: “Checks should be made on the appropriateness of the transactions.”

Gary Neville additionally expressed that Chelsea’s ownership structure should be evaluated in order to see if there are any improper negotiations taking place.

He said: “If it comes through that process, obviously transfers could open up again.

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“But I do believe, at this moment in time, transfers should be halted until you look into the ownership structure at Chelsea and whether there are beneficial transfer dealings that are improper.”

Are Neville’s assertions due to Financial Fair Play concerns?

The statements made by Gary Neville have come to the fore due to the growth in Saudi Arabia spendings on football business.

Premier League clubs made deals with Saudi Arabian clubs

Two clubs in the Premier League who have apparently made deals with Saudi Arabian clubs are facing serious issues regarding signings this summer.

Wolverhampton Wanderers and Chelsea are doing everything possible in order to keep up with the stipulated three-year limit set by the Premier League regarding losses.

Chelsea shelled out over £400 million in transfer dealings last season, while Molineux-based Wolves shared a loss of £46.1 million last year.

The manager of Wolverhampton Wanderers, Julen Lopetegui stated that the team must sort out their Financial Fair Play issues in order to compete in the top-flight of English football.

It was thought that Ruben Neves would be joining Barcelona this summer, but it appears he would be penning a lucrative £47 million deal with Al Hilal, an amount way more than expected.

Club Sources say Chelsea have no ties with Saudi Arabia

Reports emanating from Stamford Bridge are strongly indicating that the PIF has no interest whatsoever in the club.

However, it has not at any point been denied that the PIF have some sort of involvement in Clearlake.

What has been stressed though is that the US private equity organization has 400 different investors from six continents.

It is also thought that none of the shareholders are allowed to own more than 5% of the company.

Multi-club ownership is not barred by UEFA, which has even till present refused to give their thoughts on the matter.

For the Premier League, they have a fair value assessment system to try to make sure deals either commercial and transfers, are done at market value.

The transfer matching system of FIFA also conducts and superintends over these activities in a similar manner.

The ultimate goal by the governing football body is to ensure these rules are strictly adhered to. 

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Premier League Saudi Arabia
Al Ittihad emerged champions of the 2022/23 Saudi Pro League

How big is the Saudi Pro League?

The Saudi Arabian top-flight division has for many years been a really competitive and thriving league.

Saudi Arabia as a nation has qualified for six of the last eight FIFA World Cups, these successes are in addition to their successes in Asia.

They have won three Asian Cups, only Japan has more. During the 2022 FIFA World Cup, all 26 players of the squad played for clubs in Saudi Arabia.

No team in Asia has won the AFC Champions League more times than Al Hilal, they have won the competition four times.

What is Paramount to Saudi Arabia?

The growth of the Saudi Pro League is paramount to them amongst other sporting affairs in the country.

There are also indications that Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Greece are planning to send a joint bid for the 2030 FIFA World Cup.

If peradventure that becomes a reality, it will be the first world hosted in three continents of the world; Asia, Europe and Africa.

Last term, Al Ittihad tutored by former Tottenham Hotspur boss Nuno Espirito Santo faced stiff competition from Al Hilal and Al Nassr for the Pro League title.

Al Hilal had within their ranks former Watford and Manchester United striker Odion Ighalo (to exit the on June 30, 2023), for Al Nassr they had the great Cristiano Ronaldo representing them.

Premier League Saudi Arabia
Odion Ighalo and Cristiano Ronaldo during an encounter between Al Hilal and Al Nassr in April

Are they going the Chinese Super League route?

Signings they have made has led to some individuals insisting on the notion that Saudi Arabia is going the way of China including the president of UEFA.

Yes, China did pay staggering amounts to acquire players like Oscar and Carlos Tevez amongst others but they couldn’t sustain it.

It appears Saudi Arabia have made detailed plans with the intent of growing their league.

Acquiring a player like Cristiano Ronaldo and even attempting to get Lionel Messi before he opted for the MLS showed guts.

Cristiano Ronaldo has even expressed that the Pro League will become one of the top 5 leagues in years to come.

It definitely shows that they have the right structure and a continuity plan to accompany what they have been doing all along.

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Remember their pedigree in Asia and also take into account set plans and objectives that they have for years to come.

Would the European continent feel the heat of Saudi Arabia possibly poaching top talent away?

It appears so! One would wonder what could happen in the nearest years to come if Saudi Arabia continues their raid on European football.

Getting the services of players in the twilight of their careers isn’t a worry but signing players like Ruben Neves and even attempting to get Bernado Silva leave a lot to ponder about.

Liverpool legend and Sky Sport pundit Jamie Carragher has also shared his worries over the happenings.

He said via Twitter: “Bernardo Silva is in his peak years & has been one of the best players in Europe for the last five years! 

“I wasn’t worried about the Saudi League taking players in their 30’s, a touch worried with players below the elite (Neves) but if this happens it feels like a game changer 👀

“Saudi have taken over Golf, the big Boxing fights & now they want to take over football!!

“This sports washing needs to be stopped!  @premierleague @UEFA”.

European clubs are rich, but they don’t have the financial capacity to battle Saudi Arabia currently due to the restrictions and regulations put in place. How do they respond?

Anyway, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin doesn’t believe there is any cause for alarm.

He told Dutch Broadcaster NOS that Saudi Arabia is making a mistake with the route they are taking.

Ceferin said: “It’s mainly a mistake for Saudi Arabian football, They should invest in academies, bring their own coaches and develop their own players.

“The system of buying players that are almost at the end of their career is not the system that develops football.

Aleksander Ceferin expressed that “it’s not only about money” but competition which can only be found in Europe.

The Slovenian lawyer said: “It’s not only about money. Players want to win top competitions. And the top competition is in Europe.”

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