The 10 highest earners in the Saudi Pro League: Ronaldo, Kante, Firmino…
Saudi Arabia has taken the football world by storm by dominating the transfer market thus far, flexing their staggering financial muscles to pull off signings such as Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kante and more.
And when we talk about financial muscles, we’re talking prime, world heavyweight champion Batista-size muscles. So yeah, pretty frightening.
After Cristiano Ronaldo made the jaw-dropping move to Al-Nassr at the beginning of 2023, the state has pumped money into its top football division in a bid to establish it among the best leagues in the world, attracting stars of varying ages away from Europe’s top five and to the Middle East.
But who are the top earners in Saudi Arabia? Read on to find out.
10. Ever Banega
Annual salary: £9.1million
35-year-old Banega clinched his third Europa League crown with Sevilla in 2020, before packing his bags and heading off to retire in the Middle East with Al Shabab.
At the time of signing, his £9.1million yearly wage looked astronomical – because it is – but it’s since been dwarfed by the influx of new arrivals.
— LALIGA English (@LaLigaEN) March 31, 2019
9. Edouard Mendy
Annual salary: £9.4million (plus add-ons)
In the context of the money being thrown about, former Chelsea goalkeeper Mendy is taking in a rather modest wage at Al-Ahli.
A strong first season in London quickly derailed following injuries and a loss of form. Chelsea managed to cash in on the Senegal international after three years for around £17million, with Al-Ahli spending big ahead of just their second season back in the top flight.
Annual salary: £10million
Breaking the hearts of Celtic fans, Portuguese winger Jota signed on the dotted line to sign for champions Al-Ittihad in a £25million deal.
He’s now teammates with the likes of Karim Benzema and N’Golo Kante, and according to reports, is earning a pretty penny while living out the dream of every footballer.
7. Ruben Neves
Annual salary: £15.6million
Announcing he would be leaving Wolves at the end of the 2022-23 season after years of speculation, many assumed that Neves would find himself a move to a top club outside of the Premier League, or at least a move up the table to a side competing in Europe.
Not afraid to speak up about his ambitions of playing in the Champions League, it was a shock to see Neves seal a deal to sign for Al-Hilal, with the Saudi side paying Wolves £47million to make it happen.
FOX Sports reported that his new salary equates to roughly £300,000 per week.
6. Roberto Firmino
Annual salary: £17million
Speculation was rife regarding Firmino’s future after he left Liverpool as a free agent following eight spectacular years at the club.
But while he was undoubtedly still good enough for a top side in Europe, it’s Al-Ahli who have won the race for his signature, tying him down to a three-year deal.
He links up with former Chelsea stopper Mendy, with the Sun reporting that the deal is worth £17million a season.
5. Marcelo Brozovic
Annual salary: £21million
At first, Brozovic appeared to rebuff the offer of linking up with Ronaldo at Al-Nassr, but seemed to be holding out for more money.
A deal was then agreed before Al-Nassr hit the pause button and threatened to pull the plug, unless Inter accepted a lower transfer fee. Santi Aouna reported that a transfer fee of €17.5million was ultimately enough to get the deal done, with the Croatian signing a three-year deal.
Considering Barcelona appeared to be interested in Brozovic, this one was pretty scary.
4. Kalidou Koulibaly
Annual salary: £30million
Just 12 months after completing a £34million move to Chelsea, Koulibaly has already left the club after a disappointing debut season.
It was made even worse knowing Napoli – where he’d spent the previous eight years – lifted the Serie A title having moved him on. The Blues managed to cut their losses on the Senegalese defender by selling him to Al-Hilal for £20million.
3. N’Golo Kante
Annual salary: £86.2million
As if the wages we had already discussed weren’t enough.
Chelsea were keen on keeping hold of Kante despite spending most of the 2022-23 season injured, but were resigned to defeat when Al-Ittiihad came knocking with such a monstrous proposal for the French midfield maestro.
The 32-year-old has penned a three-year deal in Jeddah.
2. Karim Benzema
Annual salary: £172million
A wage packet fit for a king – or the current Ballon d’Or holder, in this instance.
Benzema had the option for one more year at Real Madrid that would’ve taken him through to 2024, but opted against staying in order to sign a three-year deal with the Saudi Pro League champions Al-Ittihad.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo
Annual salary: £173million
Benzema runs him incredibly close, and will earn more than his former colleague having penned a year longer contract, but if it wasn’t for Ronaldo making the move at the beginning of the year, nobody would be signing these deals to begin with.
The world stood still when the five-time Ballon d’Or winner waved goodbye to United and Europe’s top five leagues, to put pen to paper on a two-year deal with Al-Nassr. Since then, just about everyone has heard of the club and more eyes than ever are on the Saudi Pro League.