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Is the Saudi Pro League Threatening To Become the Super League European Football Thought It Might Create?

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Since its inception in 1976, the Saudi Pro League has been one of the most significant Asian leagues, but it’s never really touched the football scene in Europe in terms of performance or players. For a long time, it has been recognised as the “retirement league”. When the biggest stars in the Premier League, Bundesliga and La Liga decide their time has come in their European careers, they are essentially offered a blank cheque from the Saudi Pro League to join their ranks and entertain fans on Saudi Arabian soil instead. 

But over the last few years, this seems to have been changing. This month, the next season of the Saudi Pro League kicks off, and they will be hoping that the world is watching. After all, why wouldn’t they be, when world-class players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Jordan Henderson, Segeij Milinkovic-Savic, and the defensive legend Fabinho will be taking to the field? 

What’s Happening With The Saudi Pro League?

Leaving the Premier League, Serie A, Ligue Un, La Liga, and the Bundesliga for Saudi Arabia is now a tempting career choice for many players. Typically, targets for Saudi clubs have been in the latter stages of their careers – or at least have expiring contracts. Many have had success on the biggest stages has to offer. The next phase of anyone’s career – whether it’s just beginning or mostly behind them – is exactly like the one before: how to achieve success. Saudi Pro is delivering on that, and in doing so, is shaking the established football landscape as we know it. 

How Is The Saudi Pro League Affecting European Football?

The question isn’t so much how this affects European football, but how it could affect it in the future. As mentioned previously, a sizable amount of finances are available in Saudi Arabian football, to the point where they can essentially offer players whatever they want to play in the league. Despite the money available in European football, the most lucrative part of European deals is the trophies on offer. The bigger the trophy, the higher the rating of players, the more valuable they become. 

But the Saudi Pro League is now in a position to prove itself as an instantly lucrative league to be in. To give an example, football star Kylian Mbappe is going to have to choose between a one-year $200 million contract with Saudi Pro, or playing for Real Madrid for free in 2024.

In short, the Saudi Pro is willing to pay big money for big stars. And the more stars move to Saudi Pro, the more popular Saudi Pro will get, which could be damaging for the European football landscape.

Is There Concern In European Football?

But despite Saudi Pro’s success in recent years, not everyone is worried. The Premier League chief executive, Richard Masters, recently stated that the Saudi Pro League is not a threat to the English league, due to the history and tradition of the tournament being enough to retain players and keep fans interested. 

With this in mind, there is certainly more to running a successful football league than ample resources and the ability to buy some of the best players in the game. The league needs to be sustainable and not act as a transfer market disruptor.

According to UEFA chief, Aleksander Ceferin, it’s important for leagues to invest in academies, coaches, and develop their own players if they want to survive. That being said, Saudi Pro League has already generated a heap of discussion in just one transfer window. This demonstrates that they are doing something right and they have laid the groundwork for great success. In this case, it’s important not to count them out so soon.