One of the key sporting stories over the past couple of years has been the emergence of top-level sport in Saudi Arabia and the surrounding countries.
Whether it be the acquisition of English Premier League club Newcastle United or the highly controversial LIV golf tour that has revolutionized the game globally, the influence of Saudi Arabia on the modern sporting landscape has been growing steadily.
The latest development in the world of football however, does threaten to sculpt the way in which the game is consumed in the short and long term future.
Financed by the Saudi government, the Saudi Pro League has long been a competitive and reputable competition, with many sides achieving success in the Asian Champions League historically but with renewed impetus and financial backing, the league’s status is far more established than ever before.
Whilst Saudi Arabia is not one of the many legal sports betting states globally, sportsbooks outside of Saudi Arabia are fascinated by the development of the Saudi Pro League and are consequently seeing a huge amount of betting traction.
Big name players
In a similar vein to Premier Leagues in China and Russia that have come before, looking to infiltrate modern day football, the Saudi Pro League has been active in their attempts to sign some of the biggest names on the planet – to raise the profile of the league.
Cristiano Ronaldo, as he so often has been throughout his career, was the trailblazer – signing for Al Nassr at the start of 2023, making him the highest paid footballer on the planet and the domino effect has been clear for all to see.
Riyad Mahrez from Manchester City, Jordan Henderson and Roberto Firmino from Liverpool, and N’Golo Kante, Kalidou Koulibaly and Edouard Mendy from Chelsea are just some of the big name Premier League players who have moved from England to Saudi Arabia, to spearhead the new Pro League.
Elsewhere, the likes of Karim Benzema from Real Madrid in La Liga, Marcelo Brozovic from Inter Milan in Serie A and Jota from Celtic in the Scottish Premier League have all sought pastures new and been allured by the riches on offer in Saudi Arabia.
Can the Saudi Pro League compete globally?
For all the intrigue, morality and speculation surrounding the Saudi Pro League, the fact remains that it is a financial powerhouse, capable of signing any player, should their head be turned.
The likes of Neymar, Paul Pogba, Sadio Mane and Kylian Mbappe have all been linked with the Saudi Pro League and the prospect of any of them joining is far from incomprehensible.
However, whilst the individual players and managers will earn a pretty penny for plying their trade in the Saudi Pro League, question marks do linger as to whether the competition has the clout to compete with its European counterparts.
The English Premier League remains the most watched competition on the planet and the appeal of the competition seemingly knows no bounds.
La Liga in Spain, the Bundesliga in Germany and Serie A in Italy are all well supported globally, as are leagues in France, Turkey, Portugal, and the Netherlands.
Not to mention the prestige and history surrounding the Champions League and their subsidiary competitions of the Europa League and the Europa Conference League.
Whilst the Saudi Pro League has sparked interest amongst football fans and punters alike, it remains to be seen if it can fully compete with the established football powerhouses worldwide.