Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) has been making significant strides in the world of football. With investments in events like the Super Cup finals and strategic purchases in the transfer market, the PIF is leaving its mark. In the summer of 2023, a small revolution is taking place in the Saudi Pro League as the PIF controls four teams in the championship: Al Nassr, Al Ittihad, Al Hilal, and Al Ahli. This article explores the PIF’s ambitious moves to elevate football within the country and the wider implications for the sport.
Saudi Arabia’s Ambitious Investments
The PIF, also known as the Sovereign Fund of Saudi Arabia, has made waves with its investments. Karim Benzema, the reigning Ballon d’Or winner, is one of the most notable arrivals.
After 14 successful seasons with Real Madrid, Benzema signed a two-year, $200 million contract with Al-Ittihad. This high profile signing sets the tone for Saudi Arabia’s ambitious plans in the 2023 transfer market.
Expanding the Transfer Market
While Al Hilal missed out on securing Lionel Messi, who opted for the MLS, their pursuit of talent continues. N’Golo Kanté, a formidable midfielder at 32 years old, is on the verge of joining Al Ittihad alongside Benzema. Additionally, Al Ittihad shows interest in Tottenham’s Son Heung-min, with a reported offer of 60 million to Spurs and an annual salary of 30 million for the player.
Al Nassr is also actively seeking reinforcements by signing Chelsea defender Kalidou Koulibaly. The deal includes a three-year contract worth $30 million per season, along with a transfer fee of $25–30 million paid to Chelsea. Another pair of players who recently joined Al Hilal are Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech and Chelsea’s goalkeeper Edouard Mendy.
The Saudi transfer market isn’t limited to specific leagues, as they also have their eyes on Serie A talent. While Inter’s Romelu Lukaku decided to stay, Marcelo Brozovic is considering a move to Saudi Arabia. Al Nassr has offered Inter 23 million, with Brozovic set to earn 20 million per season over three years. Additionally,
A New Approach: Ruben Neves’ Arrival
The Saudi League has made a significant shift in strategy with the acquisition of Ruben Neves from the Wolverhampton Wanderers of the Premier League. Despite having a year left on his contract, Mendes’ influence facilitated Neves’ move to Al Hilal for a fee of 55 million euros. This demonstrates a shift from targeting only players nearing the end of their careers to attracting prime talents. This strategy aligns with the previous success seen in the Chinese and American leagues.
Precedents in China and the USA
China and the USA have been proactive in attracting renowned players to their leagues. Many famous soccer players have recently transferred to China, including Hulk, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Marek Hamsik, and Carlos Tevez.
Players like Oscar and Axel Witsel, who were still at the peak of their careers, complemented these high-profile signings. Kaká, David Villa, Andrea Pirlo, Frank Lampard, Federico Bernardeschi, and Lorenzo Insigne were just some of the stars to make their way to the MLS during that period.
These players joined the league despite their capabilities to perform at the highest level in Serie A, highlighting the ambitions of the American league.
Beyond the Transfer Market: Saudi Arabia’s Vision
Saudi Arabia’s ambition extends beyond the transfer market and into the world of football. Hosting the 2030 World Cup showcases the nation’s unwavering dedication to promoting the expansion of the sport. The PIF has made a strategic investment of an unbelievable $8 billion in the prospering eSports and gaming sectors. This bold move will bring the PIF to the forefront of the entertainment industry, confirming its position as an industry leader. With strategic acquisitions of renowned gaming companies, Saudi Arabia is poised to make a significant impact BY investing an unbelievable 38 billion, solidifying its position as a key player in the global gaming market.
The PIF’s financial commitment to the Saudi Pro League has impacted the competitive setting of the league. With smart investments and ambitious plans, Saudi Arabia is set to become a worldwide football superpower. Inviting players of all ages and from various leagues has raised the level of competition and interest. The Saudi Arabian government has set its sights on hosting the 2030 FIFA World Cup, and the kingdom has also made large investments in the gaming sector.