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Saudi Arabia’s Investment Fund is Ruining the Game of Soccer

Cristiano Ronaldo of Al Nassr in action during the pre-season friendly match between Celta Vigo and Al Nassr at Estadio Algarve on July 17, 2023, in Faro, Portugal. (Gualter Fatia/Getty Images/TNS)

Ever since the shocking 2-1 win of Saudi Arabia over Argentina in the World Cup group stages, and the unexpected move of soccer legend, Cristiano Ronaldo, to Saudi club Al-Nassr, Saudi Arabia has been a surprise in the world of soccer. Throughout all these years of soccer, the most dominant leagues in the world have always been the European leagues like: the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, etc, etc, but now it seems like players are willing to throw away their careers and play for the Saudi Pro League, a league that has never been noticeable until this year (2023). The question that everyone asks is why do they do that?

To start off, players decide to join the league for one reason only, money. Money is what motivates the players to leave their old teams and join a not-so-good Saudi squad, with barely and almost no star player. The Saudi Pro League has a total of 18 teams and four of them are 75% controlled by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, a wealth fund controlled by the prince Mohammed bin Salman. The fund has a total of $777 billion to invest, so it is obvious, this takeover will just grow and grow each year that goes by. The first player to move to the league was Cristiano Ronaldo, for the majority of people, the greatest soccer player of all time. At Al-Nassr he gains a salary of 173 million pounds per year ($219,447,040.00). This is a crazy amount of money which definitely shakes a players head when they are making a decision to join the club or not. Ronaldo went to Saudi Arabia with a goal of promoting the league and making it gain a higher audience, and to make the league within the top 5 best leagues in the world for the upcoming years. Let’s just say he’s been able to do that. Ever since his arrival 17 other star players have decided to follow his footsteps and join the Saudi Pro League, including former Ballon D’or winner Karim Benzema.

Although most people say that the majority of players that join the league are either old or ‘washed’, I believe that is not the case and it won’t be the case within future years. Of course there are older players that are reaching an end of their careers, and joined the league to gain money to support for the rest of their lives, but surprisingly there are some young stars that decided to throw away their European soccer experience to play for a Saudi team. A clear example of this is Portuguese player Jota. Jota is 24 years old and a promising soccer star, he used to play for Scottish side Celtic where he was definitely the star of the team and would have a great future in the best European leagues. But after Al-Ittihad offered him a “life changing” offer he decided to abandon his future in Europe and join the Saudi Pro League. Another example is Portuguese player Rúben Neves (26 years old) who now plays at Saudi club Al Hilal. Before joining Al Hilal he played for Wolves, a team in the Premier League in England. There he was a starter and also had a promising future in the ‘Prem’ and European soccer. But those dreams were cut short when he accepted a 300 thousand pounds per week offer to play at Saudi Arabia. These are just two of many young players that will be joining and that have joined the league in the upcoming years. 

Growing up, most of these young stars have always dreamed of playing in Europe’s big leagues, and now that they are and have a promising future ahead of them they just decide to throw it away. I find these decisions ridiculous. Most of these players are destroying their legacies by playing for money. This is not what soccer is supposed to be. The reason soccer is the sport it is today is due to the fact that players have passion to play to win, but the Saudi Arabia league is everything but passion, it is just a league to gain huge amounts of money and throw your career away.

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About the Contributor
Eduardo Kingston, Sports Editor
Eduardo Kingston is the sports editor for "The Raider Voice." It's his third year on the staff. Outside of journalism he does swimming and plays water polo. He enjoys watching his soccer team Flamengo play whenever they have games.

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