Nassr's Portuguese forward #07 Cristiano Ronaldo shoots during the AFC Champions League playoff football match between Saudi's Al-Nassr and UAE's Shabab Al-Ahli at the King Saud University Stadium in Riyadh on August 22, 2023. (Photo by Yazid al-Duwihi / AFP) (Photo by YAZID AL-DUWIHI/AFP via Getty Images)

Saudi Arabia’s soccer spending spree reshapes Middle East sports sector

August 2023 Al-Monitor PRO Trend Report 

3,917 words



A year ago, the soccer world’s center of gravity revolved around Qatar’s $300 billion FIFA World Cup, which culminated in Argentina’s thrilling victory over France — after which top stars were supposed to return to business as usual in Europe. Instead many went to Saudi Arabia.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Neymar are all now members of the Saudi Pro League, or SPL, which kicked off its 2023-2024 season on Aug. 11. The new campaign is laden with expectation for a league that was largely unknown outside the Middle East until Saudi Arabia’s $700 billion sovereign wealth fund started bankrolling a spending spree on global superstars. 

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