Saudi Pro League clubs have all the money in the world – but the one thing they can’t buy is fans.
For every Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Neymar there are about 50 empty seats as teams across the league continue to struggle filling their grounds on matchday. Saturday’s clash between Al-Wehda and Al-Khaleej attracted a mere 447 people to Al-Wehda’s 38,000-capacity stadium – which is a near-record low for the season.
Granted, neither side are PIF-funded and thus have no household names to parade to spectators, but the poor attendance figures demonstrates the enormity of the task facing the Saudi Pro League.
Collectively, Saudi clubs spent more than £1billion on new players and managers over the summer, with some of the biggest names in European football being coaxed over to the Gulf state. Most of the superstars, like Benzema, Neymar, N’Golo Kante, Riyadh Mahrez and Sadio Mane, are in the twilight of their careers, but young(ish)-guns like Ruben Neves, Malcom, Allan Saint-Maximin and Franck Kessie were also lured over.
High-profile managers such as Steven Gerrard, Nuno Espirito Santo and Jorge Jesus were drafted in too, and plans are reportedly afoot to nab some genuinely elite-level coaches in 2024, with the likes of Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti being targeted.
Which top-level Premier League players do you expect to see move to Saudi Arabia next summer?