Who can still move to Saudi Arabia before their transfer deadline?
Mo Salah and Paul Pogba would be marquee arrivals, while Hugo Lloris and Donny van de Beek could be offered new starts… Who can still move to Saudi Arabia before their transfer window slams shut?
- The Saudi Pro League transfer deadline will officially slam shut on Thursday
- Liverpool star Mo Salah continues to be linked with a £200m move to Al-Ittihad
- Listen to the latest episode of Mail Sport’s podcast It’s All Kicking Off!
The Saudi Arabian transfer window slamming shut would have barely been noticed 12 months ago, but the passing of this summer’s deadline on Thursday will be a relief or a missed opportunity for European sides.
Saudi Arabia has been the great disruptor to the transfer market from the moment Cristiano Ronaldo touched down in January to sign for Al-Nassr, after his second spell at Man United came to a controversial end.
Ronaldo’s £175million per season deal showed the riches on offer to players in the Saudi Pro League, with the Portuguese legend being followed by a host of stars.
The likes of Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kante and Aymeric Laporte are among the big names to have swapped elite clubs in Europe for the Saudi Pro League this summer.
Liverpool have arguably been the club most impacted by the new lure of Saudi Arabia with captain Jordan Henderson and Fabinho having been lured away to join Roberto Firmino, who left the club when his contract expired at the end of last season.
Liverpool star Mohamed Salah continues to be linked with a £200m move to Saudi Arabia
Jurgen Klopp will be among the managers most eager for the Saudi Pro League window to end
Karim Benzema is among the big-name stars to have been attracted to the Saudi Pro League
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Some might say the funds and squad space generated by those departures have allowed Liverpool to revitalise their own midfield this summer, with Alexis Mac Allister, Dominik Szoboszlai, Wataru Endo and Ryan Gravenberch joining.
Yet Jurgen Klopp has been vocal about the impact of the Saudi window, expressing concern at the start of August over their deadline.
‘Pretty much the worst thing I think is that the transfer window in Saudi Arabia is open three weeks longer,’ Klopp said.
‘If I am right, I heard something like that, then at least in Europe that’s not helpful. ‘UEFA or FIFA must find solutions for that.
‘But in the end, at this moment, I don’t know exactly what will happen. It is already influential, for us, for sure. We will have to learn to deal with it, and that’s what we do.’
Perhaps the growing frustration being expressed from Europe had played a part in the Saudi Pro League issuing a statement this week to confirm their deadline is in fact on Thursday.
The league issued the clarification after FIFA initially claimed the Saudi top flight’s window would run up until September 20.
Klopp will be more relieved than most when the Saudi window shuts, with the Liverpool boss having to field questions over Mohammed Salah’s future over recent weeks.
Hugo Lloris is likely to be left out of Spurs squad and has been linked with a move to Saudi
Saudi Arabia is one of the avenues on offer for Donny van de Beek to play first team football
Liverpool rejected an offer of £150m for Salah from Al-Ittihad, but are braced for the Saudi Pro League side to return with a bid expected to be in the region of £200m.
Despite the influx of top stars this summer, Salah would undoubtedly represent the crown jewel as the Arab world’s biggest sporting star.
While Liverpool would breathe a sigh of relief if there is no movement on Salah’s future before the deadline, other clubs may rue the chance to offload an unwanted player.
Former Tottenham captain Hugo Lloris would be one such name, with the 36-year-old Frenchman having failed to secure a move away from the club during the European window.
Lloris, who was replaced by Guglielmo Vicario this summer, had been among the early names linked with Saudi Arabia this summer. Reports claimed in May that he had been approached with an offer that would triple his £100,000-a-week salary.
With the veteran shot-stopper looking likely to be left out of Tottenham’s Premier League squad, Saudi Arabia represents one of few active options for Lloris to secure first team football this season.
It could be a similar story for Donny van de Beek with the Dutchman having seen moves to Real Sociedad, Ajax and Lorient fail to materialise.
The midfielder, who signed for Man United for £40m in 2020, has been left out of the club’s Champions League squad and appears destined to be on the sidelines at Old Trafford unless he can agree a move.
Arsenal may also hope a Saudi Arabian club are tempted by a last-minute move for Ivory Coast international Nicolas Pepe. The winger has been heavily tipped to join Turkish side Besiktas, but the Gunners would be keen to offload the £72million flop to any club with an interest.
Saudi Arabia clubs have reportedly not given up on signing Paul Pogba from Juventus
Everton winger Demarai Gray is expected to complete an £8million move to Al Ettifaq
West Ham’s Nayef Aguerd, left, and Newcastle’s Jamaal Lascelles, right, have been linked with moves
Across the channel, PSG outcast Marco Verratti has been linked with a move to Saudi Arabia during the summer window, with the Italian international having fallen out of favour under new head coach Luis Enrique.
Verratti had been the subject of a bid from Al-Hilal in July but still remains a PSG player, although he is believed to be closer to a move to Qatar than Saudi Arabia at this stage.
Another potentially eye-catching addition to the Saudi Pro League would be Paul Pogba, with reports in Italy suggesting the clubs are still pushing to sign the Juventus midfielder.
The Old Lady may be tempted to part ways with Pogba, who has played just 10 times since returning to the club last summer.
One deal that does appear likely to go through before the deadline will see Demarai Gray join the exodus from Merseyside. Albeit one that has seen the 27-year-old publicly clash with Everton boss Sean Dyche.
The winger looks poised to leave Everton for Al Ettifaq in an £8million deal, joining the side managed by Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard and captained by Jordan Henderson.
West Ham defender Nayef Aguerd and Newcastle captain Jamaal Lascelles are also reportedly the targets of Saudi Arabian clubs ahead of the deadline.
Saudi clubs may also be tempted to top up their squad with free agents, with the likes of former Man United star David de Gea still available on the market.
Saudi Arabia’s top clubs have stocked up on foreign stars and must make room for new arrivals
Yannick Carrasco finalised a move from Atletico Madrid to Al-Shabab ahead of the deadline
One factor that could restrict a deadline day transfer splurge from Saudi Arabia’s leading clubs are the Pro League rules around foreign players.
Al-Nassr briefly fell foul of this in January after securing the signing of Ronaldo, but were initially unable to register him due to surpassing the cap of seven foreign players. Eventually this led to Cameroon captain Vincent Aboubakar being released to make room for Ronaldo.
The vast number of incomings this summer from the four clubs owed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund – Al-Ittihad, Al-Nassr, Al-Hilal, and Al-Ahli – have been matched by departures of their former foreign imports to make room for new arrivals.
All four of the teams have currently maxed out their cap of foreign players, which was increased from seven to eight to provide extra room to attract stars from Europe.
The majority have been filled by the big-name arrivals this summer, although some of their previous imports could be axed should the opportunity to secure a big name arise before the deadline.
The restrictions should mean that moves on the final day of the window could mirror Yannick Carrasco’s transfer.
The Belgian winger has joined former Wolves defender Romain Saiss in signing for the less heralded Al-Shabab ahead of the deadline.
Regardless of tomorrow’s activity, the deadline will mark an end to a dramatic summer dominated by the Saudi Arabian market.
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