Manchester City manager, Pep Guardiola, has sounded a warning to elite clubs, urging them to be mindful of the impact of the Saudi Pro League’s financial power in the transfer market.
The Saudi league has recently attracted several high-profile players, including Cristiano Ronaldo, N’Golo Kante, Roberto Firmino, Riyad Mahrez, and Karim Benzema.
Guardiola acknowledged that the landscape of football transfers has been altered by the Saudi league’s ability to lure top talent. He emphasized that clubs need to be aware of the changing dynamics in the market. “A few months ago when Cristiano [Ronaldo] was the only one to go, no-one thought this many top, top players would play in the Saudi league,” Guardiola stated.
He revealed that Riyad Mahrez’s departure from Manchester City was driven by an “incredible offer” from Al-Ahli, which the club could not refuse. Mahrez joined the Saudi side in a deal worth up to £30 million. The trend is not limited to Mahrez, as Allan Saint-Maximin is also set to make a move to Al-Ahli from the Premier League.
Guardiola also mentioned that Bayern Munich’s Sadio Mane is in talks over a potential move to Al-Nassr, highlighting the growing interest of top players in the Saudi league. He believes that the Saudi Pro League’s ambition to become a strong league has attracted players who want to experience football in that setting.
While some may downplay the Saudi league’s influence, Guardiola views it as a reality that clubs should consider seriously. He acknowledged that the Premier League has been able to spend more on transfers due to better organization, broadcasting, and higher sponsorship deals, but the Saudi league’s financial capabilities cannot be underestimated.
As City adapts to life without Mahrez, Guardiola made it clear that they are not seeking a like-for-like replacement in terms of skill because each player brings a unique dimension to the team. He added that the club will evaluate their options, including loan players, as the transfer window progresses.