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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Euro Soccer Divided Over Saudis, Salah Could Be Next

  • Key figures at Liverpool and UEFA are divided over the impact of the Saudi Pro League.
  • Saudi Arabia continues to disrupt soccer in Europe and across the globe.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Saudi Arabia is still crashing European club soccer’s party — and the situation is still dividing the sport’s leading figures.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp pushed back on the notion that the Saudi Pro League isn’t a threat — a claim recently made by UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin. The SPL has reportedly been exploring potential entry into the UEFA Champions League as it signs more soccer stars.

“It feels rather like a threat or a concern than not because I can’t see how we really deny it,” Klopp said. Saudi club Al-Ittihad has been making escalating transfer bids — the latest reportedly nearing $200 million — for Liverpool star Mohamed Salah, who is Muslim and captains the Egyptian national team.

Over the summer, Liverpool lost captain Jordan Henderson to Saudi side Al Ettifaq, which is reportedly paying the English international at least $20 million a year. That’s more than double the 33-year-old’s previous contract at Liverpool. 

“I strongly believe that me playing in Saudi Arabia is a positive thing,” Henderson said in his first public comments since making the controversial move.

International Intrigue

The Saudis are also tussling with Europe over world soccer’s biggest event.

Saudi Arabia reportedly wants Europe’s support in its efforts to bid for the 2034 FIFA World Cup. Additionally, Saudi Arabia’s new SRJ Sports Investments fund wants to bring more international events to the Middle East.

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