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Saudi Pro League: Star players eager to exit the league

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Jordan Henderson is eager to leave the Saudi Pro League Photo The Times
Jordan Henderson is eager to leave the Saudi Pro League. Photo/ The Times
  • The Saudi Pro League’s impressive recruitment drive made headlines as the big-spending league enticed some prestigious names to the Middle East in the summer.
  • However, not all of the league’s high-profile additions have adjusted as successfully, with rumors of dissatisfaction circulating among some of the summer recruits.
  • We look at big-name signings who are rumored for an exit from the Saudi Pro League.

The Saudi Pro League’s impressive recruitment drive made headlines as the big-spending league enticed some prestigious names to the Middle East in the summer.

However, not all of the league’s high-profile additions have adjusted as successfully, with rumors of dissatisfaction circulating among some of the summer recruits.

We look at big-name signings who are rumored for an exit from the Saudi Pro League.

Ruben Neves

Ruben Neves Photo Goal scaled

Ruben Neves. Photo/Goal

Perhaps the most unexpected addition to the Saudi Pro League roster last summer was Ruben Neves. Neves arrived in Saudi at the height of his career, while most of the big-name signings into the division were nearing the end of their careers.

The 26-year-old traded Molineux for the Middle East and a large salary package, although he had previously expressed a desire to play Champions League football if he left Wolves. To be brutally honest, Neves said to BBC Sport that his choice to sign with Al-Hilal was influenced by money.

Neves has stated out loud that he is content in Saudi Arabia, although he is still connected to a Premier League comeback. The Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia is the source of funding for Newcastle, who have been recognized as admirers.

Jordan Henderson

Jordan Henderson has come under heavy fire for his choice to move to Al-Ettifaq in the summer, with many criticizing him for the transfer’s moral ambiguity. Henderson decided to go to a nation where same-sex partnerships are prohibited, despite having identified as an advocate of the LGBTQ+ community throughout his time in the Premier League.

Following that choice, the 33-year-old’s reputation was tarnished, and six months after leaving Merseyside for the Middle East, it is said that he is eager to exit. Ajax and Celtic are two of the teams that have been connected to him; teams in the Bundesliga and Premier League are also keeping an eye on him.

Henderson regrets signing with Al-Ettifaq in the first place, as seen by the haste with which he has lobbied for a return to Europe. Henderson may be able to play at the level needed to claim England’s participation at Euro 2024 with a move this month, but it is unlikely to restore the image he took so long to establish and then to destroy with a single choice.

Few, if any, accepted Henderson’s statement that his ambition to expand the game led him to go to Saudi Arabia. Is that aim truly fulfilled after six months and a few lackluster performances? The decision was undoubtedly motivated by increased earnings, which some people may find hard to accept.

Karim Benzema

karim benzema news

Karim Benzema. Photo/Sports Illustrated

One of the most high-profile additions of the Saudi Pro League window was Karim Benzema, who joined from Real Madrid after an agreement was finalized with Al-Ittihad to sign the Ballon d’Or winner. Benzema, who was named captain of the Saudi team, has scored 15 goals in 24 games in all competitions this year.

But the 36-year-old Frenchman is still being linked to a move, with Arsenal, Manchester United, and Chelsea all interested in bringing him in as a temporary fix for their goal-scoring problems.

Even though Al-Ittihad, who now sit seventh in the SPL standings, signed Fabinho and N’Golo Kante in the summer, Benzema has had difficulty winning over the French forward’s supporters.

Jota

Jota, who joined Al-Ittihad for a fee of £25 million from Celtic just six months ago, is certain to go this winter. Surprisingly, the Portuguese winger’s playing time was restricted to the AFC Champions League and he was not enrolled for the Saudi Pro League under former boss Nuno Espirito Santo.

According to writer Rudy Galletti, three teams have made bids to sign the 24-year-old in January, meaning that the winger’s turbulent stint in the Middle East may come to an end this month.

During a fruitful stint at Celtic, where the winger won five domestic championships and became a great fan favorite, Jota scored 28 goals and dished out 26 assists in 83 games.

Roberto Firmino

Roberto Firmino and Riyadh Mahrez play for Al Alhi Photo

Roberto Firmino. Photo/Telecom Asia

Last summer, Roberto Firmino said Liverpool goodbye, ending his illustrious career with the team together with the aforementioned Henderson.

Before agreeing to a contract to move for Al-Ahli on a free transfer, Firmino spent eight seasons at Liverpool and played a significant role in the team’s success under Jurgen Klopp. The 32-year-old Brazilian has only scored three goals in 19 appearances for the team throughout his dismal stint there, according to reports that he wants to leave the Saudi Pro League.

Despite being chosen captain in the summer, Firmino has started the last seven league games on the bench, indicating a clear decline in play. The attacker is reportedly interested in returning to the Premier League, with Fulham and Sheffield United expressing interest.

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