The transfer market closed on Thursday night in Saudi Arabia, where a record-breaking £784.2million was spent on players this summer.
That aggregated total across the Saudi Pro League clubs rises to £819m when including add-ons. Premier League clubs, by comparison, spent a total of £2.4bn this summer including performance-related bonuses.
This summer marked a monumental shift in the power dynamic of football finance. 90 per cent of the money splashed on transfers by Saudi Pro League clubs was spent by Al-Hilal, Al-Ahli, Al-Nassr and Al-Ittihad — the four teams who came under the ownership of the Saudi sovereign wealth fund (the Public Investment Fund) back in June.
The other big spenders were Al-Ettifaq — who convinced Steven Gerrard to become their manager — and also Al-Shabab, who are reportedly close to offering John Terry his first job as a head coach.
The first truly marquee signing made by a Saudi club came not this summer but last winter, when Cristiano Ronaldo’s explosive TalkTV interview saw his contract terminated by Manchester United. Al-Nassr then signed the Portugal superstar, who instantly became the face of the Saudi Pro League.
Ronaldo remarked in a Portugal press conference on Thursday: “I said six months ago —back when everybody thought I was crazy —it’s now normal to play in the Saudi league. I knew this was going to happen. I was the pioneer of all that and feel very proud of it.”
The Saudi Pro League was outspent by only the Premier League this summer, with clubs from the Gulf state spending more on players than the combined expenditure of the Bundesliga, LaLiga, Serie A and all other major European and world leagues.
The Premier League lost stars such as Riyad Mahrez, N’Golo Kante, Roberto Firmino, Aymeric Laporte, Jordan Henderson, Fabinho and Aleksandar Mitrovic to Saudi, while Sadio Mane joined Al-Nassr from Bayern Munich, Neymar joined Al-Hilal after leaving Paris Saint-Germain, and Karim Benzema left Real Madrid to sign for Al-Ittihad.