Ousmane Dembele of FC Barcelona

Barcelona star among 7 big-name players that turned down Saudi Arabia

The 2023 summer transfer window has been dominated by Saudi Arabia – but not every player offered eye-popping contracts has chosen to move to the kingdom.

After Cristiano Ronaldo moved to the Saudi Pro League last December, Saudi Arabian clubs have successfully recruited a number of high-profile European-based footballers such as Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kante, Ruben Neves and Kalidou Koulibaly.

So we’ve identified seven well-known footballers that have rejected moves to Saudi Arabia and chosen to play elsewhere.

Ousmane Dembele

Al-Nassr have already snapped up the likes of Seko Fofana and Marcelo Brozovic this summer and they recently set their sights on the French winger.

The Barcelona star only has one year left to run on his deal at Camp Nou and a switch to Saudi did look feasible at one stage. However, according to Foot Mercato, the winger turned down a five-year deal worth £35m per season from Al-Nassr. For context, that’s around £673,000 per week he’s snubbed to stay in Spain.

Jamie Vardy

Vardy has rejected a move to Saudi Arabia out of hand after several clubs, including Khaleej FC, expressed interest in signing the Leicester City striker.

The 36-year-old, who has one year left on his contract, apparently considers a move to the Gulf state a non-starter for him and his family and will be hoping to fire the Foxes back to the Premier League at the first attempt.

Lionel Messi

In the end, Messi opted for Inter Miami, but it looked likely for a while that he’d become the highest-paid athlete of all time by moving to Saudi Arabia.

Al-Hilal offered the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner a staggering deal worth a reported £1billion, which would’ve made Cristiano Ronaldo gristle if nothing else.

But the 36-year-old chose to move to America in an attempt to enjoy his ‘day-to-day life’ more than he did in Paris.

Lionel Messi Cristiano Ronaldo 35 age comparison

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Luka Modric

Al-Hilal, who have signed Ronaldo and Benzema in the past year, targeted another Real Madrid legend to maintain their status as one of the top clubs in Saudi Arabia.

They offered Modric £171million to play in the Saudi Pro League for three seasons, but the evergreen Croatia international has decided to stay one more season in Madrid because his family are settled there.

Sergio Busquets

Busquets announced he was leaving Barcelona in May, following a glittering career with the Spanish giants. Combined with his exploits with the Spanish national side, the midfielder has won every prize on offer in the modern game.

And it was widely reported one of the four PIF-owned Saudi clubs were extremely keen on bringing Busquets over to the country.

But, like his former Barca team-mate Messi, he opted for a move to Inter Miami – where they will soon be joined by Jordi Alba.

Romelu Lukaku

Lukaku, who spent last season on loan at Inter Milan, was offered an incredible £21million-a-year deal from the Al-Hilal. Reports also suggested the striker already met with club officials to discuss a move.

However, the Belgium international doesn’t appear keen, despite his unwillingness to return to Chelsea, as he prefers a permanent move to Internazionale.

Istanbul, Turkey. 10th June 2023. Romelu Lukaku (Inter) during the UEFA Champions League Final match between Manchester City 1-0 Inter at Ataturk Olympic Stadium on June 10, 2023 in Istanbul

READ: 6 loanees set for uncomfortable returns to parent clubs this summer

Olivier Giroud

According to transfer expert Nicolo Schira, Giroud was also approached with an “important offer” from an unnamed club from Saudi Arabia. 

But France’s record goalscorer, who spent six years at Arsenal and another three at Chelsea in the Premier League, turned them down as he wants to continue playing in Europe despite his advanced age of 36.

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