Last updated on August 8th, 2023 at 08:09 PM
“Saudi is something to pay attention to and be very wary of.” – That is the thoughts of former Everton and Wolves striker, Andy Gray.
Although Gray feels that Saudi Arabian money is here to make its mark, until they sign a player in their mid-twenties, it still isn’t as attractive as other competitive leagues.
Following Cristiano Ronaldo’s move over to the Middle East in January, Saudi Pro League clubs have spent over £350m on new players this summer, the fifth highest outlay of any league in the world, with more big spending expected to follow.
This includes the likes of Frenchman Karim Benzema and Ngolo Kante as well as Allan Saint-Maximin from Newcastle and a £30m deal to bring Manchester City forward Riyad Mahrez to join Ex-Liverpool striker Roberto Firmino and former Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy. All of whom are over 30.
Joining the Middle Eastern League is former Liverpool captain, Jordan Henderson, who is linking up with fellow Englishman, Steven Gerrard at Al-Ettifaq.
Speaking Exclusively to Champions UK Plc, the BeIN Sports pundit said; “I think if they were signing people who are in the middle of their careers, such as 24 or 25 year-olds, people are not going to sponsor them. I know they have Rueben Neves but he’s the only one.”
“I think if they start getting big sponsorship deals and naming rights for the Saudi League, then that’s going to eat into what the premier league gets essentially. But even Ronaldo? Is that a signing that will turn the world around? Not at 37, maybe at 27, but not at his age.
Gray’s thoughts were echoed by former Wolves and West Brom Striker, Don Goodman, who also believes that the Saudi Pro league has still got a long way to go to get near the Premier League.
Goodman said: “You can bring in the superstars of the world and put them amongst 6 or 7 Saudi Arabian players who are not going to be on their level so therefore the standard of that league will still be a way behind the big leagues that we are blessed to have around European football.
“What really disappoints me is that there isn’t any sort of financial regulation. I think that really should happen. If your Saudi Arabian, do you want to see 12 teams in the Saudi Pro League where there is only one or two Saudi players in them? Surely you want your own players to be doing really well and promoting the game themselves.”
Goodman also expressed that players and coaches have brought it upon themselves that time added on has increased, with the Community Shield concluding after 113 minutes as well as many Sky Bet Championship games having 8 minutes added on in EACH half.
“I’m listening to both sides of the story and I can sympathise with each side, but I think players and coaches have brought this on themselves. The ball in play time has got ridiculously low.
I’ve been watching players faking injuries to run the clock down so there is an awful lot of gamesmanship than there was when I played. We used to take it in the corner and hang on to it but nowadays teams have a corner on the right and send their left-back to walk over.
“That’s not to say that I don’t sympathise but as the weeks go by, if players stop the gamesmanship and time-wasting tactics than accordingly the numbers of each half will come down to being less and less.
Hopefully it is a bit of a bedding in period and referees have no choice as this is a directive from the top of football that they have had enough of 52-minute games.”
Don Goodman and Andy Gray both featured at the 90th anniversary of the Farmfoods British Par 3 Championship which is being held at the prestigious Nailcote Hall in Coventry for the 25th year.
The special event welcomed many golf and sporting greats such as Tony Jacklin CBE, Ian Woosnam OBE as well as Derek Redmond and Matthew Hoggard MBE.
The British Par 3 Championship is a long-standing event on the professional golfing calendar, having started out life as The British Professional Short Course Championship in 1933, when it was held in Torquay.
The exclusive nine-hole course has been put together in a unique way, as it’s a great introduction for beginners but still a challenging course for pros. The assumption that a Par 3 course would be relatively easy is a far-cry contrast towards the complicated and twisting routes en route to the final hole.
Welcoming full capacity crowds back for the first time, the event is being held between the 8th-11th August. For more information on how you can still get involved, please visit www.britishpar3.com/