Karim Benzema‘s recent transfer from Real Madrid to Saudi Arabian champions Al-Ittihad is the latest example of the Saudi Pro League creating headlines with massive statement acquisitions. When Cristiano Ronaldo left Europe for Al-Nassr last winter, he brought international attention to the sport in Saudi Arabia.
What is interesting is that more A-list players are expected to go to the Middle East. There have also been extensive rumors involving superstars like Kalidou Koulibaly, N’Golo Kante, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Four of the biggest football teams in the kingdom, including Al-Nassr, where Cristiano Ronaldo plays, are rumored to be acquired by the Public Investment Fund (PIF). Since Saudi clubs are not restricted by UEFA’s spending limits, the PIF may give whatever wages they see necessary to attract the world’s best players to the Middle East, unlike other European teams.
What were Saudi Arabian clubs found guilty of?
The International Federation of Professional Football Players (FIFPRO), which represents 65,000 players throughout the globe, has issued a warning to its members to avoid playing for Saudi Arabian teams. Clubs in Saudi Arabia have been accused of not paying their players fairly after a stinging report was released by FIFPRO.
The Athletic has published details from the investigation that illustrate many concerning situations. For example, there have been several situations when Saudi Arabian teams were involved in a salary dispute. Forward Lewis Grabban, formerly of Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest, spent just three months at Al-Ahli before departing.
After not receiving a signing bonus or two months’ pay, Grabban allegedly asked for £2.2 million in damages. An arbitrator ruled that Al-Ahli should pay Grabban $500,000 in back wages and $700,000 in damages for breach of contract, and the club was also barred from registering new players for “two entire and consecutive registration periods.”
Not only are they not alone among clubs, but they also contributed to the scandal. A similar issue in November resulted in a $2.5 million payout to Brazilian player Petros, who played for Al-Nassr, Ronaldo’s side.