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Benzema in Saudi Arabia: Ramos, Lukaku, Kanté, Lloris... who will follow the Ballon d'Or in the Gulf?


Highlights: Cristiano Ronaldo has signed for Al-Nassr. Karim Benzema has joined Al-Ittihad. N'Golo Kanté has been approached by Al-Hilal and Al Nassr. Luka Modric and Hugo Lloris are also targets for the Saudi Pro League. The league is set to be privatized by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund (PIF) by 2030. The domestic league will also see its format changed, from 16 to 18 clubs, which will be able to field eight foreign players.

After having recorded, this Tuesday, the arrival of the former French international at Al-Ittihad, the Saudi Pro League would like to recruit, these proc

Football, a new showcase for Saudi Arabia's "soft power"? It looks like it. Cristiano Ronaldo's signing on 30 December 2022 at Al-Nassr coincided with the kingdom's first major coup in its strategy of outreach through sport. With the announcement, on Tuesday, of the arrival of Karim Benzema at Al-Ittihad, the Saudi Pro League adds a new Ballon d'Or to its chase board. The adage is known to all, appetite comes with eating. The Arabian Peninsula country, criticized for its human rights abuses and the oppression of its minorities and the opposition, has a stated desire to polish its image internationally.

To this end, it has immeasurable financial means to propose pharaonic contracts and satisfy its galloping ambition. Other big names on the football planet are, thus, clearly in the viewfinder. Starting with French world champions. According to our information, Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kanté was recently officially approached (Al Ittihad and Al Nassr) with an offer described as "extremely important".

At 32, NG is out of contract with the Blues where new manager Mauricio Pochettino would like to have him still in his squad this summer. This wish finds a favorable echo in the former Caen. But to date no contractual agreement has been signed and the hypothesis of a departure to Saudi Arabia or elsewhere cannot be excluded. A year before the end of his contractual commitment with Tottenham, Hugo Lloris, 36, embodies another clearly identified target. The Al-Hilal club would have offered him three times his salary, he who currently receives more than € 450,000 per month according to The Times.

"You can't go from a successful World Cup to being an average player in a few months. I had some hard knocks, I was a bit inconsistent in my performances, I got injured twice. I came out of the World Cup quite blunt. The pace had been infernal before that, explained a few days ago in Nice Matin the former captain of the Blues. The most important thing is to find a project in which I thrive, at Tottenham among others. According to corroborating sources, Saudi Arabia is only an option on the table for the goalkeeper.

In addition to Ronaldo and Benzema, the Saudi Pro League is closely following the now-free Lionel Messi and Luka Modric. The "Pulga", clearly gives its preference to Barcelona, but the extraordinary salary conditions offered by Al-Hilal (400 million per season) have enough to shake up many certainties. "For the Saudis, it's not much," Pascal Boniface, a geopolitical scientist and football enthusiast, recently told RTL.

Clubs allowed to field eight foreign players

"My idea is to continue here at Real Madrid, that's for sure. This club is my whole life." At the beginning of May, Luka Modric seemed, on the other hand, to close the door to a golden exile. "The goal is to set up a very strong and competitive league and raise the level of Saudi clubs," a Saudi government official who is a likely candidate to co-host the World Cup in 2030 or 2034, possibly with Egypt and Greece, told AFP.

If Modric, Messi and Benzema have, from the top of their 35 years and over, the best of their careers behind them, younger elements with strong notoriety are also in the sights. We think of the Brazilian Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), approached at Real Madrid or the Belgian international striker Romelo Lukaku (30 years old). The names of the Spaniards Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets or the Argentine Angel Di Maria circulate with more or less insistence.

In detail, it is up to the Saudi sovereign wealth fund (PIF) to court these stars and not the clubs themselves. It is then planned that the players will be divided between five formations: Al-Hilal, Al-Nassr, Al-Shabab, Al-Ittihad and Al-Ahly. Saudi clubs are currently publicly owned, under the supervision of the Ministry of Sports. But a football development plan envisages their privatization by 2030. The domestic league will also see its format changed, going from 16 to 18 clubs from the coming season, each of which will be able to field eight foreign players. Enough to turn the summer transfer market upside down a little more.

Source: leparis

All sports articles on 2023-06-06

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