05 Sep Which stars could Saudi clubs sign before transfer deadline?
Although the European transfer window closed on Friday, Saudi Pro League clubs have until Thursday to register new signings. While Saudi Arabia’s “big four” of Al Nassr, Al Hilal, Al Ittihad and Al Ahli have concluded the bulk of their business, the asymmetry in the football calendar has opened up a gap for some last-minute transfers. Here’s a list of high-profile, unattached or discontent targets that could yet make the move to Saudi Arabia in the coming days.
Despite numerous high-profile signings in the Saudi Pro League this summer, there has been one glaring absence: Salah. He would be a strategic signing for several reasons.
Not only is the Egyptian king at the peak of his illustrious career, but he is also the most famous Arab footballer in the world. Securing his services would be synonymous with capturing the lucrative and powerful Egyptian market. Not only would tens of millions more eyeballs be directed towards the Saudi league, but tens of thousands of Egyptian supporters in the Gulf would flock to stadiums across the Kingdom to catch a glimpse of their national hero.
The stumbling block, however, has been Liverpool’s stubborn stance on retaining their talisman, having already rejected offers of up to £150 million. According to multiple reports, an important delegation will soon advance a £200m bid to test Liverpool’s resolve and ambition. Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool would not be able to replace Salah, though, with the European transfer market having closed on Friday.
David de Gea | Goalkeeper | 32 | Free agent
It has been an open secret at Old Trafford that since the arrival of manager Erik ten Hag in April 2022, he has long sought to replace De Gea with a better ball-playing goalkeeper. Cameroon No. 1 André Onana emerged as De Gea’s successor this summer, given his ball distribution proficiency and familiarity with Ten Hag’s tactical identity from their time together at Ajax.
Nonetheless, at just 32, De Gea remains in his physical prime, so a transfer to a club like Al Nassr or Al Ittihad, who have yet to make a splash star signing between the sticks, could yet materialise.
Roberto Pereyra | Midfielder | 32 | Free agent
For Saudi clubs in search of an all-action, proven, versatile midfielder, the Argentine Swiss-army knife is an ideal target. Pereyra possesses the ability to operate across the midfield, in both advanced and withdrawn positions. A graduate of the River Plate youth academy, Pereyra can take set pieces, make robust tackles and deliver crucial final passes behind the opposition’s defense.
Throughout the past decade, he has established himself as a reliable option at the highest levels in England and Italy. Last season, during his tenure with Udinese, the 32-year-old contributed five goals and eight assists in 36 league matches.
After a decade-plus stint at Tottenham Hotspur, Lloris, the former captain, has lost his place in the team to summer recruit Guglielmo Vicario. Despite his contract running until 2024, Tottenham has communicated to Lloris that he’s free to explore new opportunities. The seasoned 36-year-old goalkeeper has subsequently emerged as a potential target for several clubs, including Marseille, Lazio, and a potential return home to Nice. Another avenue for the former world champion could involve joining Al Nassr, as the Saudi Arabian club has reportedly contemplated the prospect of securing a prominent goalkeeper to bolster their squad.
Donny van de Beek | Midfielder | 26 | Manchester United
Van de Beek has seen limited action in the Premier League, with only 31 appearances in the past three years — and most of those appearances came as a substitute. His woes deepened last January when a knee injury sidelined him for the remainder of the season.
A proposed transfer to French club Lorient collapsed on deadline day, following earlier discord between Van de Beek and the Red Devils. With the European transfer window now closed and the 26-year-old clearly out of favor under Ten Hag, United will likely seek to offload his £120,000 weekly wages, potentially making a transfer to the Saudi Pro League club the only feasible option.
Pogba has been through a very rough 12 months. Around a year ago, the former Manchester United midfielder suffered a knee injury that forced him out of the 2022 World Cup. To exacerbate matters, Pogba was targeted by extortionists, with his brother eventually charged in connection with the attempt.
Although he is no longer a first-choice midfielder at Juventus, Pogba appears to have regained peak physical condition. A move to Saudi Arabia aligns with his stature as one of football’s biggest names, and his previous visits to the Kingdom for religious pilgrimage suggest there is potential for fond familiarity in the country.
Palhinha’s proposed deadline day move to Bayern Munich fell apart at the last moment when Fulham couldn’t secure a replacement in time. While his agent hinted that the transfer might just be postponed, it remains uncertain whether Palhinha will stay at Fulham until the next winter transfer window.
Coach Marco Silva acknowledged the difficulty of the situation for Palhinha, claiming that it was, “definitely, probably one of the toughest days of his life.” Should the Portuguese maestro kick up a fuss and force a premature exit from Craven Cottage, the Saudi Pro League could emerge as an intriguing destination for him.
The 30-year-old Italy international has been with PSG for more than a decade but does not fit into Luis Enrique’s plans, who favors Manuel Ugarte as a holding midfielder. Although Verratti reportedly has been the subject of interest from clubs in the Qatar Stars League, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him shore up the midfield of one of the Saudi big four.
Eden Hazard | Forward | 32 | Free agent
As Real Madrid supernova Jude Bellingham scored his fourth goal of the LaLiga season last weekend, a sorry statistic emerged online, that the young British midfielder has already surpassed the number of league goals Hazard scored throughout his four-year stint in Spain. It’s been a long chute for a player who was once seen as one of the premier players in the world.
Amid reports of an impending retirement announcement, Hazard would need to convince Saudi Pro League recruiters that he is in good enough shape to play at a high level and that he remains motivated to play professional football.
Jesse Lingard | Forward | 30 | Free agent
Although it is extremely rare to see British footballers sign in Saudi Arabia, Steven Gerrard & Co. at Al Ettifaq are slowly building a contingent of their own in eastern Saudi Arabia. The next piece in their puzzle could be Lingard.
The 30-year-old made 17 Premier League appearances for Nottingham Forest last season, but is currently unattached. West Ham United are expected to offer the England international a heavily incentivised deal, but the Saudi Pro League shouldn’t be ruled out.
After Chelsea defeated Luton Town last month, Mauricio Pochettino was asked about the future of Sarr, who was yet to make a matchday squad for the Blues. “Who?” the puzzled Argentinian coach questioned in response.
Despite his new manager’s lack of interest in his abilities, Sarr remains a useful player. The former prodigy spent last season on loan at AS Monaco, where he played 17 matches. With his future still very much ahead of him, Sarr could relaunch his career in the Middle East, where he could prove a useful commodity at several Saudi clubs.