An absolutely absurd XI of players linked with a move to the Saudi Pro League

Cristiano Ronaldo’s shock move to Saudi Arabia to sign for Al-Nassr seems to have sparked a new era in the world of football, with the Saudi Pro League now desperate to sign as many big names as possible.

First it was Ronaldo, most recently it’s been Karim Benzema, who has agreed to join Al-Ittihad this summer, calling time on his spell at Real Madrid. With the seemingly infinite amount of cash on offer in the Middle East, pro’s heading towards the Autumn of their career are now being linked with a move to the Pro League, playing at a much easier level and setting themselves up for life with one final payday.

With the summer transfer window looming, the rumour mill is already in full swing, and if you don’t laugh, you cry. So, we at Planet Football have put together a starting XI of top players who have all been linked with a controversial move to Saudi this summer.

GK: Hugo Lloris

Lloris is expected to leave Tottenham after 11 years in north London upon the expiry of his contract, leaving him free to pick his next club.

And at 36, there isn’t much left for him to do with his career. His powers have dwindled somewhat, but that doesn’t matter to Saudi clubs, where the quality difference means he’ll likely look a world beater again. He’s been strongly linked with a move to the Middle East, with the league eyeing up high-level international talent.

RB: Sergio Ramos

Not quite his natural position – at least not for about 15 years – Ramos could admittedly play as a striker in the Saudi Pro League and look streets ahead of most of the competition – until everyone mentioned here signs, that is.

He will become a free agent after two years at PSG and is of significant interest to Saudi Arabia. Al Hillal have reportedly presented him with a mammoth offer, while Al-Nassr – where former teammate Ronaldo plays his football – have also expressed an interest.

CB: Sergio Busquets

Right, just bare with us. You get how these work. We’re fantasy booking. And besides, Busquets is definitely good enough to put a shift in at centre-back.

The midfield maestro will leave Barcelona and while he has been linked with a move to Inter Miami where former team-mate Lionel Messi is headed, there is also interest from the Middle East.

What a lucky chap, eh.

CB: Thiago Silva

The Brazilian has been nothing short of immense since joining Chelsea for free back in 2021, but reports suggest multiple Saudi Arabian sides are vying for his signature this summer.

Chelsea need a clear out of the highest proportion this summer after signing just about every single footballer on the planet in the last year, and Silva is likely a high earner. You can’t replace that experience, though, and he can still very much hold his own. It’s going to take a serious offer.

LB: Jordi Alba

Rounding off a very La Liga hall of fame back four, Alba finds himself in a similar position to Busquets.

It’s the end of an era at Barcelona with the old guard clearing out, meaning Saudi’s eyes are very much lit up. Al Hilal are again the ones keen on the Spaniard, with the initial plan being to use himself and Busquets to bring Messi to the club.

That ship has sailed, but the pair could still very realistically end up there.

RM: Riyad Mahrez

Another who, like Silva, is still very much at the top of his game in the Premier League, reports have suddenly surfaced stating that Mahrez is the subject of concrete interest from Al-Ahli.

Understandably, Manchester City appear unwilling to let the Algerian leave without Al-Ahli paying a transfer fee. While Mahrez is now 32, he’s still breaking ankles and sending defenders to the shops for fun in the Premier League. Also still loves a wonder goal. Seeing him leave for Saudi Arabia right now would be a real shock to the system.

CM: llkay Gundogan

Fresh off the back of carrying City to an FA Cup with a sensational brace at Wembley, Gundogan has the pick of the bunch heading into the summer.

His contract is up and he has a queue of clubs desperate to sign him. Barcelona haven’t been shy in showing their interest, but they could be swamped by a mammoth offer from Saudi Arabia, who appeared to have joined said queue.

Don’t do it, Ilkay. Do the right thing.

CM: N’Golo Kante

Perhaps the shock of the summer thus far, Kante looks set to become one of the first out of the door at Chelsea, with a mega-money move to Al-Ittihad edging closer to completion.

The Frenchman has been among the best midfielders in the world in the last few years, but has barely featured this season due to injury. Chelsea did hope that he’d renew his contract and remain at Stamford Bridge, but when someone presents a €100m per season deal across two years, it’s hard to compete.

A Benzema and Kante link-up at club level looks like it’s nailed on.

LM: Wilfried Zaha

Crystal Palace have tried everything to convince Zaha to sign a new deal at the club. They’ve thrown the kitchen sink at the lad – not literally, otherwise it’d be pretty understandable as to why he’s leaving.

They haven’t done that, but it still looks like they’re resigned to a future without the winger. Palace fans consider Zaha their greatest-ever player, and he’s shown that in the Premier League for the most part in recent seasons. He’s been linked with moves within the league, as well as abroad, but it now appears as though Al-Nassr could swoop in and snap him up.

Zaha pinging balls into Ronaldo; two very level-headed chaps. What could possibly go wrong?

ST: Roberto Firmino

Liverpool’s Brazilian forward will leave Anfield this summer, after an exceptional eight years that has seen him prove integral to Premier League and Champions League-winning seasons.

At just 31 and fresh off the back of a brilliant stint in the Premier League, he has the pick of the bunch. Thus it’s no surprise to read reports suggesting that Saudi Arabia have him on a list of high-profile free agents, with the intention of revolutionising their top flight.

Roberto Firmino of Liverpool during the UEFA Champions League Group A match between Ajax Amsterdam and Liverpool FC at Johan Cruijff ArenA in Amsterdam, Netherlands on October 26, 2022

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ST: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Aubameyang joined Chelsea last summer, but is already at the top of the list of players the club wish to offload. The transfer was a disaster.

Signed with the club needing a striker and Thomas Tuchel having worked with him before, that logic was completely undermined when Tuchel was sacked shortly after he headed to Stamford Bridge. He’s been an outcast ever since and thus perfectly fits the bill for a move to the Middle East; ageing former Premier League great, now struggling for form and looking for one final payday.

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