Neymar and 5 Other Players Who Have Moved to the Saudi Pro League in 2023 | Business Upturn

Neymar and 5 Other Players Who Have Moved to the Saudi Pro League in 2023

Thanks to its enormous deposit and utility of fossil fuels, Saudi Arabia has become a talk-in-town in the global soccer transfer market. Its professional football league, the Saudi Pro League, has offered and completed lucrative deals to leading stars from European football.

The Public Investment Fund (PIF), owners of Newcastle United, have taken control of Saudi Pro League’s four largest teams – Al Nassar, Al Hilal, AL Ittihad, and Al Ahli. Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard now manages Al-Ettifaq, while Al-Shabab FC has also been signing football stars from Europe’s leading leagues.


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Meanwhile, here’s a rundown of six former European stars, including Neymar, who have officially moved to the Saudi Pro League in 2023.


Neymar had fancied and possibly pursued a fairytale return to Barcelona. However, his expectations turned south, leaving him open to signings from other teams globally – and a record signing fee with a Saudi side.

After much speculation, the 31-year-old Brazilian soccer team’s joint all-time top scorer finally left Paris Saint-Germain for a mega-money deal to join Al-Hilal. The Riyadh-based side welcomed him in a massive reception, to the delight of fans, home viewers, sports analysts, and even fans watching from home at their 70,000-capacity stadium.

Neymar is reportedly being paid an annual salary of around $100 million – about half the amount reports say Al Nassr pays Cristiano Ronaldo.

Karim Benzema

Karim Benzema was the first big star to join Cristiano Ronaldo in the Saudi Pro League. The reigning Ballon D’or holder shocked the globe by announcing his move from 14-time European champions Real Madrid at the end of his contract.

The France international signed a deal with Al-Ittihad worth $436 million. Reports say the Saudi champions are paying him $213 million every season. Benzema’s contract says he’s to play in At-Ittihad for two years. However, he could extend that reign by 12 months in 2025.

Sadio Mane

Following a less-than-stellar stint at Bayern Munich, Sadio Mane moved to Al-Nassr, joining the list of other former Liverpool players who have joined the burgeoning league. Although the Senegal international was part of the Bundesliga-winning team, he could hardly repeat his feats while playing for Premier League sides Liverpool and Southampton in Germany.

Mane scored 12 goals in 38 appearances and fell out of favor with the team for punching teammate Leroy Sane after a Champions League defeat to Man City in April. Mane signed a four-year deal on August 2 with the Riyadh-based club. The Senegalese icon has enjoyed a great start to life in Saudi, forming an impressive partnership with Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ngolo Kante

Chelsea wanted Kante to extend his contract at Stamford Bridge – and they seemed like they would get their wish at some point. Suddenly, the French midfielder turned heads to sign a contract with Al-Ittihad.

The World Cup winner signed a three-year contract with Al-Ittihad worth a reported £86 million. He is reportedly earning slightly less than Benzema, having signed a three-year contract with the Saudi champions.

Riyad Mahrez

Mahrez helped Manchester City to the second treble ever from an English side last season. But that ended up being his last performance for The Sky Blues. While the 32-year-old Algeria international won four Premier League titles at City, he had reduced playing time. This must be one of the reasons he decided to leave.

Mahrez signed a three-year contract (with an option to extend) with Al-Ahli. He’s one of the most recent Premier League stars to head to the Saudi Pro League, joining newly-promoted Al-Ahli.

Yassine Bounou

After registering a successful playing career at Sevilla, Yassine Bounou heads shoulder-high to Al-Hilal after signing a three-year contract that keeps him at the club till 2026.

Although Bounou was a target for top European sides like Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, he chose Al-Hilal’s project instead. Perhaps the peaks of Bounou’s career included two Europa League titles, which earned him the reputation as one of La Liga’s best goalkeepers.

Meanwhile, Bounou also dazzled on the international front, as he helped Morocco reach a historic World Cup semi-final finish in Qatar last winter.


The riches in the Saudi Pro League have stirred a revolution in the air throughout 2023 as teams signed top European stars worldwide following CR7’s shock transfer. Neymar, Benzema, Kante, Bounou, Mahrez, and Mane are six of the many leading European stars who have gone to Saudi Arabia.

Expectations are increasing as the entire football world awaits the improvements these signings will bring to the league. Cristiano Ronaldo has pioneered bringing the spotlight to this league, but the question remains on how the league administrators will maintain this sudden widespread attention it receives from all over the world.

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