Mainz’ Bo Svensson believes that Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to Al-Nassr didn’t kickstart the flow of international stars to Saudi Arabia, but was in fact Karim Benzema, who joined Al-Ittihad.
When asked by BILD whether or not top stars moving to Saudi Arabia is a danger for football in Germany and Europe, Svensson said: “I take it very seriously. It’s different from back then with China. Only three foreigners were allowed to play per club, and really big names didn’t go to China either.
“For me, the decisive transfer to Saudi Arabia wasn’t Ronaldo at 38, but Benzema, who just played in the semi-finals of the Champions League. This could be a door opener for others. If you see the names now, the number of players going there and the money that’s available where even the Premier League can’t keep up.. I’m excited to see how it goes.”
On June 4, Real Madrid announced that club captain Benzema would leave the club this summer as part of a mutual agreement, putting an end to a successful 14-year spell. Just two days later, Benzema had penned a deal with Al-Ittihad, signing a contract until 2026.
As reported via our colleagues at Get French Football News, Benzema’s arrival, along with that of former teammate Ronaldo at the start of the year, is part of an offensive to bring in ten high-profile players to the domestic league, as the country also looks to host the World Cup in 2030.
This summer has seen an influx of stars to the Saudi Pro League: Riyad Mahrez, Allan Saint-Maximin, Edouard Mendy, Jota, N’Golo Kanté, Marcelo Brozovic, Alex Telles, Rúben Neves, Sergej Milinković-Savić and Kalidou Koulibaly, just to name a few, with further deals expected.
GGFN | Daniel Pinder