‘Mistake’ - Premier League star completes £85m move as UEFA chief hits out after PIF takeover

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin has responded to the recent flux of top players joining Saudi Pro League clubs this summer.

A four-team takeover led by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund - who own an 80% stake in Premier League club Newcastle United - has seen the summer transfer market dominated by Saudi Pro League business so far.

At the start of the month, PIF acquired a 75% stake in Al Ahli, Al Nassr, Al Hilal and Al Ittihad.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Following the acquisition, a PIF statement read: “The transfer of the four clubs will unleash various commercial opportunities, including investment, partnership and sponsorships across numerous sports.”

And the four PIF-owned clubs have been very active in the transfer market so far with Al Ittihad signing Real Madrid legend Karim Benzema on a three-year contract understood to be worth £258million. Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante has also signed an £85million deal at Al Ittihad.

Wolverhampton Wanderers midfielder Ruben Neves is also set to sign for Al Hilal with the likes of Chelsea’s Kalidou Koulibaly, Hakim Ziyech, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Romelu Lukaku also in talks with Saudi Pro League clubs.

Cristiano Ronaldo joined Al Nassr in January following his release from Manchester United on a world record deal worth a reported £175million-a-year.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

And UEFA president Ceferin has branded Saudi Arabia’s approach of offering lucrative contracts to players in the latter-stages of their careers ‘a mistake’.

When asked if he was concerned by the number of top players heading to Saudi Arabia, Ceferin told Dutch broadcaster NOS: “No, no, no. I think that it’s mainly a mistake for Saudi Arabian football.

“Why is that a problem for them? Because they should invest in academies, they should bring coaches, and they should develop their own players.

“The system of buying the players that almost ended their career is not the system that develops football. It was a similar mistake in China when they all brought players who are at the end of their career.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Tell me one player who is top, top age and who starts his career and went to play in Saudi Arabia? But it’s not about money only. Players want to win top competitions. And top competition are in Europe.”

2023 has seen European football lose Ronaldo, Benzema and Lionel Messi - arguably three of the most influential players in world football in recent times.

But the UEFA president responded: “We didn’t lose them.

“They still play football. At the end of their career some players go somewhere to earn some money.”

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.