The stars switching to Saudi Arabia as Neymar becomes latest big name to move

Sadio Mane, Riyad Mahrez and Neymar have all moved to the Saudi Pro League (Adam Davy/PA/Martin Rickett/PA/Mike Egerton/PA)
PA Sport Staff

Neymar has become the latest big-name player to make a move to the Saudi Pro League.

There has been a powerful recruitment drive by the PIF-owned clubs in Saudi Arabia as the league looks to establish itself among the best in the world and the Paris St Germain and Brazil forward will join a host of household names in the Gulf.

Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the key players already in the Middle East preparing for the new season.

Cristiano Ronaldo – Al-Nassr

Ronaldo joining Al-Nassr kickstarted the league's aggressive transfer policy
Ronaldo joining Al-Nassr kick-started the league’s aggressive transfer policy (Amr Nabil/AP)

After his acrimonious departure from Manchester United, five-time Ballon D’Or winner Ronaldo headed to Saudi Arabia as a statement signing that told the footballing world the league meant business.

Karim Benzema – Al-Ittihad

Reigning Ballon D’Or winner Benzema followed his former Real Madrid team-mate, leaving the Spanish capital after his contract expired having won five Champions League titles during his stay.

N’Golo Kante – Al-Ittihad

Like his fellow France international Benzema, Kante headed for the Gulf on a free transfer as he opted to leave Chelsea at the end of his deal, albeit with considerable concerns over his fitness.

Ruben Neves – Al-Hilal

Ruben Neves was Wolves captain before making his move to Saudi Arabia
Ruben Neves was Wolves captain before making his move to Saudi Arabia (Barrington Coombs/PA)

Portugal international Neves had helped Wolves out of the Sky Bet Championship before enjoying five Premier League campaigns at Molineux, establishing himself as one of the highest-regarded midfielders in the division and earning him a reported £47million move.

Kalidou Koulibaly – Al-Hilal

Having spent just a single season at Stamford Bridge, Senegal centre-back Koulibaly departed Chelsea for a fee in the region of £20m and with a team-mate and compatriot not far behind.

Edouard Mendy – Al-Ahli

Mendy lost his place as first-choice goalkeeper at Chelsea having arrived at the club in 2020. He made just 10 Premier League appearances last season before opting for a move to Saudi Arabia.

Jota – Al-Ittihad

Jota completed the domestic treble at Scotland ahead of his move
Jota completed the domestic treble in Scotland ahead of his move (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Having hit 15 goals to help Celtic win a domestic treble, former Portugal youth international Jota clearly caught the eye of the money-men in Saudi Arabia and made the £25m move at the start of July.

Roberto Firmino – Al-Ahli

The highest-scoring Brazilian in Premier League history, Firmino enjoyed a long and emotional goodbye to the Liverpool supporters, among whom he was a firm favourite after eight years at Anfield.

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic – Al-Hilal

The Serbia international was a key part of Lazio’s midfield last season but he opted to make the move to Al-Hilal having made over 300 appearances in Rome – he was named the club’s player of the year in both 2021 and 2022.

Malcom – Al-Hilal

After four years in Russia at Zenit St Petersburg, the Brazil forward made the move after failing to live up to early expectations which had seen him sign for Barcelona in 2018 – but he lasted just a single season at the Nou Camp.

Jordan Henderson – Al-Ettifaq

Jordan Henderson left Liverpool - where he had captained the club to Premier League success
Jordan Henderson left Liverpool – where he had captained the club to Premier League success. (Peter Byrne/PA)

Firmino’s captain at Liverpool was the next man to quit Merseyside for Saudi, joining the non-PIF funded side managed by another ex-Reds skipper in Steven Gerrard. Henderson’s long-standing and vocal LGBTQ+ allyship made it a controversial move.

Riyad Mahrez – Al-Ahli

Having ended his five-year stay with Manchester City by winning the treble, Mahrez – who was slipping down the pecking order at the Etihad Stadium – opted to take his winner’s medals with him as he linked up with the likes of Mendy and Firmino at the reigning champions.

Allan Saint-Maximin – Al-Ahli

France international Saint-Maximin was another Premier League forward to join Al-Ahli, his move from Newcastle coming under scrutiny as he left one club majority owned by the PIF for another.

Fabinho – Al-Ittihad

Fabinho was the next Liverpool player to make his way to Saudi Arabia
Fabinho was the next Liverpool player to make his way to Saudi Arabia. (Peter Byrne/PA)

The next Liverpool player to swap Merseyside for the Middle East, the Brazil midfielder moving to Nuno Espirito Santo’s Al-Ittihad for a reported £40million as Fabinho drew to a close a five-year stay in the Premier League.

Sadio Mane – Al-Nassr

After a disappointing season in Germany that included an injury that ruled him out of the World Cup and a fine and suspension from Bayern for a training ground bust-up, Senegal forward Mane opted to leave the Bundesliga champions to link up with Ronaldo at Al-Nassr.

Neymar – Al-Hilal

After his PSG team-mate Kylian Mbappe had been linked with a move to Saudi, it is instead the 31-year-old Brazilian who has left Ligue 1 – he played 20 games last season after suffering some injuries and is one of the most globally-recognised names to switch to the Pro League, perhaps matched only by Ronaldo.