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Saudi spending has ‘changed football transfer market’ says Pep Guardiola 

July 30, 2023 at 2:21 pm

Manchester City’s head coach Pep Guardiola in Seoul on July 29, 2023 [JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images]

Manchester City coach, Pep Guardiola has said Saudi Arabia has “changed the football transfer market” following Riyad Mahrez’s move on Friday to join Jeddah-based football club Al-Ahli in a deal worth almost $40 million, becoming one of the latest high-profile Premier League player to play in the Saudi Pro League.

Guardiola who led City to win their historic treble last season, made the comments yesterday while the club is on a pre-season tour of South Korea. It is worth noting that City is heavily backed by the UAE and are owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, a member of the ruling family.

“Saudi Arabia has changed the market. A few months ago, when Cristiano [Ronaldo] was the only one to go, no one thought this many top, top players would play in the Saudi league,” he said.

“In the future, there will be more and that is why clubs need to be aware of what is happening. Riyad got an incredible offer [from Al-Ahli] and that’s why we could not say ‘do not do it’.”

“It’s not about a threat. It is a reality. They want to create a strong league and they are the league who can do it. The feeling is that right now they have arrived to stay,” the former FC Barcelona added.

READ: France goalkeeper refuses to join Saudi team

ANI News reported that since Ronaldo’s record-breaking transfer to Al-Nassr late last year, several big names have followed suit, joining teams in the kingdom over the ongoing summer window including: Karim Benzema (Al-Ittihad), N’Golo Kante (Al-Ittihad), Sadio Mane (Al-Nassr), Ruben Neves (Al-Hilal), Edouard Mendy (Al-Ahli), Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Al-Hilal).

Former Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has also recently signed a three-year deal, where he will join former team-mate and current manager Steven Gerrard. French striker and Paris-Saint Germain (PSG) captain, Kylian Mbappe has also been offered a potentially record-breaking contract worth $332 million to join Al-Hilal, but has refused to meet representatives from the club. Fellow former team mate and World Cup winner, Lionel Messi has also turned down massive offers to play in Saudi Arabia and has chosen to play for Inter Miami in the US.

Professor Chris Davidson and author of From Sheikhs to Sultanism was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying: “I think Mbappe’s decision and Lionel Messi going to Inter Miami and not going to Saudi Arabia, despite being a tourism ambassador for the country – Saudi did a lot of work to get him – sent that signal that maybe Ronaldo has miscalculated that Saudi Arabia is still a has-been destination.”

READ: Calls for ‘instant embargo’ on Premier League player transfer to Saudi Pro League