MENA Sports Wrap: Saudi Pro League hits spending apex

MENA Sports Wrap: Saudi Pro League hits spending apex
The Saudi Pro League spree has hit a new high, surpassing Spanish La Liga's transfer spending with big names such as Karim Benzema now playing in the kingdom.
4 min read
29 July, 2023
Saudi Arabia's domestic football league reached an apex this week unimaginable just 12 months ago [TNA]

Saudi Arabia's football spending spree continued this week, with Liverpool's Jordan Henderson becoming the latest European football talent to agree to a move to the kingdom. Morocco got off to a rough start in the Women's World Cup, and in tennis Tunisia's Ons Jabeur ruled herself out of the upcoming Canadian Open.

Saudi spending spree eclipses La Liga

Saudi Arabia's domestic football league reached an apex this week unimaginable just 12 months ago, with transfer spending surpassing that paid by Spanish La Liga clubs this summer.

Al-Ettifaq's signing of Jordan Henderson from Liverpool for £12 million pushed the Saudi Pro League over the line with £225 million spent compared to £214 million by La Liga teams by Friday, according to

While Saudi teams have so far tempted out-of-contract (relative) veterans on high salaries, the entry of the Saudi Public Investment Fund to the scene has been a game changer with more and more younger players also being attracted.

Few would ever imagine a season ago that the Saudi Pro League would soon attract such legends in the game as Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.

The Saudi Pro League was until recently dominated by Arab and African footballers (none could be said to be household names) with eight Saudis, one Moroccan, and one Syrian in the all-time top ten scorers in the top-tier division.

One can expect more players outside the MENA region to be added to this list if they continue to attract talented youngsters such as 24-year-old Jota who moved from Celtic to Al-Ittihad this summer for £25 million.

One big name who is unlikely to make the all-time top-scorers list - and who made his debut for Al-Ittihad this week - is Karim Benzema.

Although he managed to bag a goal in his opening game for the Jeddah team, at 35 he is unlikely to complete more than one or two seasons in the Saudi Pro League.

Ronaldo managed 14 goals in his 16 games for Riyadh side Al-Nassr last season, but at 38 he is also in the final stage of his career. Still, watch this space.

Ons Jabeur out of Canadian Open amid injury woes

Tunisian Tennis star Ons Jabeur pulled out of the Canadian Open on Tuesday, in the latest setback since her heartbreaking loss in the Wimbledon final.

The tournament is set to take place between August 4-13 in Montreal.

“I feel sad that I have to withdraw from the National Bank Open in Montreal,” Jabeur said. “I hope to come back to my fans next year in Canada. Lots of love!”

It is thought that the withdrawal is related to fitness concerns, with Jabeur having had knee surgery earlier this year.

In March, the world no. 6 said she was back to 80% fitness, however was forced to retire from her semifinal clash with Iga Swiatek in Stuttgart in April due to a calf injury.

Later in the season she bounced back, with her most recent shot at a Grand Slam title ending in disappointment at Wimbledon’s Centre Court earlier this month.

“We are obviously disappointed that Ons (Jabeur) will not be joining us this year,” said Valérie Tétreault, Tournament Director of the Canadian Open. “She is an exceptionally talented player, who is highly appreciated not only by fans but also by the entire tennis community.”

Jabeur’s fans will hope to see their star in action when the Western & Southern Open kicks off in Cincinnati on August 14.

Morocco routed in their Women’s World Cup opener

Morocco got off to a rough start to the FIFA Women’s World Cup on Monday, losing 6-0 to trophy contenders Germany.

Though there were inspired moments from the Atlas Lionesses, they were unable to stop Germany, who sit 70 places above them in the official rankings, from their unrelenting push for victory.

After a difficult first match, Morocco were hoping to turn their attention to their match against South Korea on Sunday.

Both Morocco and South Korea need to snatch points from the match in order to keep their hopes of making the knockout stages of the World Cup alive.

But controversy struck during Morocco’s post-opener press conference, when a BBC reporter effectively asked captain Ghizlane Chebbak to 'out' teammates by asking who on the squad is gay.

The BBC has since apologised for the question.