Jamie Carragher has shared his concerns over the the rise of the mega-rich Saudi Pro League and insists it will be a ‘sad day for football’ when players in their prime start moving there.
Teams in the Middle East league spent big over the summer, with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Sadio Mane, Jordan Henderson, Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kante and Roberto Firmino all now plying their trade there.
Carragher, speaking on CBS’ Champions League coverage, gave his thoughts on the cash-flush league and admits he is concerned about the future.
‘I think right now it’s a slight worry that could certainly grow and that was my fear over the summer,’ he began. ‘I don’t think it’s quite materialized in the way I first feared in the sense that it’s players that are coming to the end of their career.
‘My fear when the transfer window was open in the middle of the summer was, we just need one player who is classed as in his prime and that could just be a knock on effect and there’d be loads of players going.
Jamie Carragher opened up about the Saudi Pro League during his CBS analysis on Tuesday
Jordan Henderson is among the players who switched Europe for the riches of Saudi Arabia
‘It’s nothing against Saudi Arabia’s league as such but it’s the money, that’s why players are going there and I think it would be a sad day for football if players in their prime were not playing in the biggest leagues.
‘This for me is the cream of the crop and if players in their prime were giving that up just for money I think it would be a really sad day for football. But I don’t think we’re there yet.’
Carragher used to be a stalwart at Liverpool, and therefore has the ability to compare his own position to that of Henderson, who held the role of captain when he opted to make the move to Al-Ettifaq, whose manager is another ex-Reds skipper in Steven Gerrard.
‘I think until you’re in that position yourself, it’s easy to say he shouldn’t have done that,’ Carragher noted. ‘A lot of players from Liverpool have gone there this summer, and I do view them differently in the situations that they were in purely from a footballing point of view.
Cristiano Ronaldo is also plying his trade in the Saudi Pro League after joining Al-Nassr
Henderson (left) was previously Liverpool captain – and says he didn’t move for the money
‘Jordan Henderson is the one player who has been heavily criticized, I’ve not really seen anyone else been heavily criticized, I’m not sure about players in other countries but in England it’s mainly just been Jordan Henderson.
‘The thing with Jordan Henderson was that he was the captain of Liverpool when he left. Now I put myself in his position, and I think if I was the captain of Liverpool, yes he may not have played as much going forward, but I’m not sure I would’ve given that up.
‘Roberto Firmino, whose contract was up and was a big player for the last two years, I can understand. Everyone’s got a different story.
‘We’re criticizing players for going and different reasons for why they’re going. But no one is criticizing the clubs. There’s a lot of premier league clubs who were delighted to cash in, especially Liverpool.’