And very soon, stars from City and PSG might end up in the Middle East.
The Saudi Professional League is one of the main attractions in the summer of 2023. The league continues to attract top players, showering them with incredible salaries. The pioneer was Cristiano Ronaldo, who moved to Al Nassr in late December 2022. A large group of stars followed him, lured by the extravagant salaries paid by the sheiks. So, who are the top 10 highest-paid players in the Saudi league right now?
Cristiano Ronaldo (Al Nassr) - €200 million per year
The 38-year-old Portuguese transferred to Al Nassr in December 2022, signing a 2.5-year contract. The club made Ronaldo the highest-paid footballer in the world, earning €200 million annually. Adding his off-the-field activities, Ronaldo's wealth will likely cross (if it hasn't already) €1 billion soon.
Karim Benzema (Al Ittihad) - about €200 million per year
In June, former Real forward Karim Benzema moved to Saudi Arabia, signing a "2+1" contract with Al Ittihad. His salary is close to Ronaldo's, at about €200 million annually. For the generous offer from Saudi Arabia, Benzema left Real, where he played for 14 years. His transfer set the stage for rumors about stars moving to the Saudi league this summer.
N'Golo Kante (Al Ittihad) - €100 million per year
Al Ittihad acquired his compatriot, N'Golo Kante, to assist Benzema from Chelsea. The 32-year-old midfielder became a victim of restructuring at the London club, which decided to part ways with him. Kante will undoubtedly help Benzema and the team in the fight for the championship title. The two-star footballers exchanged kind messages on social media after Kante's transfer was announced, and now they are expected to form a formidable partnership on the field.
Kalidou Koulibaly (Al Hilal) - €35 million per year
Another move from Chelsea to Saudi Arabia. Koulibaly left Napoli in the summer of 2022 and became the Italian champion for the first time in 33 years. While he achieved little with Chelsea, the Senegalese defender is now generously compensated at Al Hilal. Koulibaly stated, "I cannot deny this is a huge contract. Of course, this sum influenced my decision, but with its help, I can support my entire family and help with projects for the youth in Senegal. We have also started building a clinic in my parents' village," he shared. A worthy gesture indeed!
Ruben Neves (Al Hilal) - €18.5 million per year
One of the most unexpected transfers. The 26-year-old Portuguese was interested in clubs like Barcelona but chose Saudi Arabia. Al Hilal paid €55 million to Wolverhampton for Neves. The contract runs until the summer of 2026. One of the main reasons for the player's move at the peak of his career to Saudi Arabia was the substantial salary. At Al Hilal, Neves will earn €18.5 million annually.
Ever Banega (Al Shabab), salary - €10.5 million per year
The Argentine midfielder has been playing in the Saudi Arabian league since 2020. Before the transfer boom, Banega was the highest-paid player in the league. The 35-year-old Argentine's contract with Al Shabab will expire in the summer of 2024. It is unlikely that the midfielder will be offered similar money. For now, Ever is among the top ten highest-paid players in the Saudi league.
Mateus Pereira (Al Hilal) - €6.4 million per year
Pereira, another "veteran" on the list, has been playing in the Saudi league since 2021. The 27-year-old Brazilian previously played in Portugal, Germany, and England. But he probably found the best partners in his career at Al Hilal. Alongside Pereira, Koulibaly and Neves joined the team. Besides having talented teammates, the Brazilian has one of the highest salaries in the league - €6.4 million per year. Will Al Hilal be able to reach the top spot at the end of the 2023/2024 season?
Anderson Talisca (Al Nassr) - €6 million per year
The 29-year-old Brazilian has been playing for Al Nassr since 2021. Before Ronaldo's arrival, Talisca was considered the central star. Despite never playing for a top club (Benfica and Besiktas in Europe), he was generously paid in Saudi Arabia. By the way, Talisca moved to Al Nassr from China - a region where footballers used to go for big contracts. In Saudi Arabia, the Brazilian earns €6 million per year.
Moussa Marega (Al Hilal) - €5.4 million per year
The 32-year-old Malian has also been playing in Saudi Arabia since 2021. Marega is best known for his performances with Porto before joining Al Hilal. The powerful and fast-forward receive substantial money - €5.4 million per year. Marega's contract with Al Hilal is valid for another season. It's unlikely he will receive comparable money in 2024, but for now, Moussa is among the top highest-paid players in the league.
Marcelo Brozovic (Al Nassr) - salary unknown
The latest high-profile transfer is the move of Croatian midfielder Marcelo Brozovic from "Inter" to Al Nassr. The Saudi club paid €18 million for the 30-year-old footballer. Barcelona was previously interested in Brozovic, but financial problems took them out of the race. Marcelo chose the Middle East instead. The player's salary is currently unknown, but it will make it into the top 10 in the league. So, we include Brozovic in the ranking in advance.