The Saudi Pro League rocked the European transfer market in the summer.
Megastars such as Sadio Mane, Neymar, Karim Benzema and N’Golo Kante headed to Saudi Arabia in the previous transfer window. Especially the Asian league’s big four, Al-Ittihad, Al-Hilal, Al-Ahli and Al-Nassr, spent fortunes to lure big-name players to the Middle East.
For the January transfer window, however, it is unlikely that clubs will be quite as free-spending. Many teams already filled their limited foreigner spots – eight this term and ten from next season onwards – and used up their budget allocations in the summer, meaning that blockbuster deals like spending €90 million on Neymar will be rare or nonexistent.
However, that does not mean that no big-name Europe-based stars will be on their way to Saudi Arabia. On the contrary, several high-profile players continue to be linked with Saudi clubs, even if someone like Mohamed Salah likely won’t make the move – in fact, he could actually extend his Liverpool deal, we are told.
Here are five European stars who could move to Saudi Arabia in January…
Casemiro (Man Utd)
Reportedly unhappy about the current situation at Manchester United, Casemiro could depart Old Trafford in 2024 despite only joining in 2022. The €70 million ex-Real Madrid man has looked off the pace this season and is currently dealing with fitness problems.
With Man Utd in the midst of a dire campaign, speculation about the Brazilian wanting to jump ship and try something different has abounded. It is claimed that Casemiro could depart for Saudi Arabia for one last big paycheck and to link up with former teammates such as Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Raphael Varane (Man Utd)
Another Man Utd star who could be on his way to the Middle East is Raphael Varane. The Frenchman is very much in the same boat as Casemiro. Injuries have taken their toll and claims that his time at Old Trafford is coming to an end are proliferating.
Speculation has also been fuelled by his uncertain contract situation. It was only recently revealed that his contract is already up in the summer, though Man Utd would be prepared to give him a new one – but only on a reduced salary. Saudi dealmakers, for their part, are said to be confident that Varane will play for either Al-Nassr or Al-Ittihad in 2024.
David de Gea (free agent)
From two current Man Utd players to a former Red Devil, it is quite unbelievable that David de Gea is still unattached after leaving Manchester in the summer. Linked at various times with Real Madrid, Inter, Real Betis and even Newcastle, no move has so far materialised for the Spaniard.
The veteran goalkeeper was already courted by Saudi clubs in the summer and recently fresh reports began linking him with a move to the Middle East again. It is a distinct possibility that De Gea could reunite with Ronaldo at Al-Nassr in 2024 as David Ospina has not played a game for them in close to a year.
Thomas Partey (Arsenal)
The future of Thomas Partey has been the subject of heated debate for several months. Arsenal rebuffed summer interest from Juventus and Saudi clubs in the summer, but the Gunners may now be willing to cash in on the veteran. His frequent injury issues have proved a major concern and the midfielder is not getting any younger.
Despite potentially still needing his quality in the title race, the Gunners would be foolish not to take the money for the injury-prone Ghanaian if Saudi sides come knocking again. Teammate Mohamed Elneny is also being heavily linked with a Saudi switch.
Matteo Politano (Napoli)
While all of the above-mentioned stars could be on their way to one of the Pro League’s big for, Napoli’s Matteo Politano could follow Yannick Carrasco and Romain Saiss to Al-Shabab. The 30-year-old winger and his club are said to have a €12m offer with a €7m annual salary on the table.
Fellow Serie A star Alexis Sanchez is also reportedly being courted by Saudi clubs. The former Arsenal, Man Utd and current Inter forward has received offers but wants to remain with Inter for the duration of his contract, which expires in the summer.