Who have so far joined Saudi Arabian football clubs? Find out

Earlier, Christiano Ronaldo, and Karim Benzema were among others who joined the kingdom's football teams

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Web Desk
In this picture taken on August 15, 2023, Brazilian forward Neymar (L) signs a contract together with Hilal President Fahad bin Nafel at the Al-Hilal stadium in Riyadh. — AFP
In this picture taken on August 15, 2023, Brazilian forward Neymar (L) signs a contract together with Hilal President Fahad bin Nafel at the Al-Hilal stadium in Riyadh. — AFP

A number of prominent football players have been lured by Saudi Arabia to join its clubs offering lucrative salaries, with big names in professional star players joining one by one with the recent one being Brazilian striker Neymar. 

The Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) forward left the French club and close a two-year deal with the oil-rich country's football club Al-Hilal.   

Earlier, Christiano Ronaldo among others joined the kingdom's football teams.

An AFP Sport report shows some of the biggest names to make the move:

Big names in football

Cristiano Ronaldo's arrival in January to play for Riyadh-based Al-Nassr is what first drew global attention to ongoing efforts to boost the Saudi Pro League.

Hilals Saudi defender Ali al-Bulaihi (L) fights for the ball with Nassrs Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo during the 2023 Arab Club Champions Cup final football match at the King Fahd Stadium in Taif on August 12, 2023. — AFP
Hilal's Saudi defender Ali al-Bulaihi (L) fights for the ball with Nassr's Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo during the 2023 Arab Club Champions Cup final football match at the King Fahd Stadium in Taif on August 12, 2023. — AFP

He was followed by his former Real Madrid teammate Karim Benzema, the 2022 Ballon d'Or winner who signed a three-year contract with Al-Ittihad in June.

Just a few days later, fellow Frenchman N'Golo Kante joined the same Jeddah-based club, also on a three-year deal.

Ittihads French forward Karim Benzema celebrates with teammates after they won the Saudi Pro League football match between Al-Raed and Al-Ittihad at the King Abdullah Sports City on August 14, 2023. — AFP
Ittihad's French forward Karim Benzema celebrates with teammates after they won the Saudi Pro League football match between Al-Raed and Al-Ittihad at the King Abdullah Sports City on August 14, 2023. — AFP

The veteran and member of France's victorious 2018 World Cup squad will form a partnership with Brazilian Fabinho, arriving from Liverpool, in midfield.

Still buzzing from his historic FA Cup semi-final hat-trick for Manchester City in April, Algeria captain Riyad Mahrez has signed for four years with Jeddah-based Al-Ahli, a transfer estimated at 35 million euros.

Senegalese star Sadio Mane, who helped Liverpool to the Premier League and Champions League titles before heading to a Bundesliga crown with Bayern Munich, signed with Ronaldo's Al-Nassr at the start of this month for a reported annual salary of 40 million euros plus 10 million euros in results-based bonuses.

Manchester Citys Algerian midfielder Riyad Mahrez (L) controls the ball past Brightons Japanese midfielder Kaoru Mitoma during the English Premier League football match on May 24, 2023. — AFP
Manchester City's Algerian midfielder Riyad Mahrez (L) controls the ball past Brighton's Japanese midfielder Kaoru Mitoma during the English Premier League football match on May 24, 2023. — AFP

The latest coup for the Saudis is Brazil forward Neymar who signed on Tuesday for Al-Hilal on a two-year contract after six seasons with French champions Paris Saint-Germain.

Sources close to the deal say his salary, like Benzema and Kante, will be around 100 million euros per season.

PSG are likely to receive the same amount as a fee, considerably less than the world record fee of 222 million euros they paid Barcelona for his services in 2017.

Other prominent players

Along with top-tier stars, several other big names in the sport are starting new chapters in Saudi Arabia.

Marcelo Brozovic, who captained Inter Milan in last season's Champions League final, has signed a three-year deal with Al-Nassr, who reportedly paid a transfer fee of 18 million euros.

Nassrs midfielder Marcelo Brozovic (L) vies for the ball with Shortas forward Idrissa Niang during the 2023 Arab Club Champions Cup semi-final in Abha on August 9, 2023. — AFP
Nassr's midfielder Marcelo Brozovic (L) vies for the ball with Shorta's forward Idrissa Niang during the 2023 Arab Club Champions Cup semi-final in Abha on August 9, 2023. — AFP

Ex-Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has joined Al-Ettifaq until 2026, drawing heavy criticism given his past support for the LGBTQ community and the fact that Saudi Arabia outlaws homosexuality.

Another former Liverpool star, Brazilian international Roberto Firmino, left the team after eight seasons for Al-Ahli, who have also landed Edouard Mendy of Senegal.

Kalidou Koulibaly, for his part, bade farewell to Stamford Bridge for Al-Hilal for a reported transfer fee of 23 million euros.

New players lured

It is not just fading stars who are making the trip to the Gulf.

The 28-year-old Ivorian midfielder Seko Fofana has also joined Ronaldo at Al-Nassr, leaving French outfit Lens as they prepare to return to the Champions League.

After eight years with Lazio, Serbian midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, also 28, has inked a three-year deal with Al-Hilal.

Nassr´s Ivorian midfielder Seko Fofana (R) is marked by Shababs Brazilian defender Iago Santos during the 2023 Arab Club Champions Cup match at the King Fahd Stadium in Taif on July 28, 2023. — AFP
Nassr´s Ivorian midfielder Seko Fofana (R) is marked by Shabab's Brazilian defender Iago Santos during the 2023 Arab Club Champions Cup match at the King Fahd Stadium in Taif on July 28, 2023. — AFP   

He will be joined by 26-year-old Ruben Neves, the Portuguese star who was previously tipped for a move to Barcelona.

Another 26-year-old, Frenchman Allan Saint-Maximin, has joined Al-Ahli from Newcastle, which is 80% owned by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund.

Coaches also joined the fray

The Saudi Pro League has also drawn renowned coaches.

Dismissed by Aston Villa in October, iconic former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard signed with Al-Ettifaq until 2025, and a clip of him introducing himself in halting Arabic has gone viral on social media.

Ettifaqs English coach Steven Gerrard celebrates his teams win in the Saudi Pro League football match between Al-Ettifaq and Al-Nassr at the Prince Mohamed bin Fahd Stadium on August 14, 2023. — AFP
Ettifaq's English coach Steven Gerrard celebrates his team's win in the Saudi Pro League football match between Al-Ettifaq and Al-Nassr at the Prince Mohamed bin Fahd Stadium on August 14, 2023. — AFP

Former Croatia and West Ham boss Slaven Bilic will join the Al-Fateh bench.

After leaving Fenerbahce in June, former Benfica coach Jorge Jesus has returned to Al-Hilal, where he worked in 2018-2019.

And in late July, Al-Ahli named 35-year-old German Matthias Jaissle, regarded as one of the most promising managers of his generation, as their new coach.