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Money Talks

Saudi Teams Have Spent Millions On Soccer Stars, Is It Worth It?

After the wake of the FIFA World Cup, soccer has become a sport that I have become a big fan of. I have enjoyed my time as a fan of the sport that is known as the “beautiful game.” However, a movement has begun in the sport that tainted the sport for me. Many of the sports’ best talent and clubs have been influenced by mega-rich owners and teams in Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries.

Such movement in the soccer world has been brewing for a decade, with massive clubs such as Manchester City and Newcastle United being bought by mega-rich Middle Eastern groups. It has become a massive ethical question for soccer fans across the world. Newcastle had been a mid-table team for years before PIF purchased the club in 2021, PIF is a wealth fund for the Saudi Arabian government, essentially meaning that the club is owned by the controversial Saudi Arabian government.

Along with teams being bought by Saudi and Middle-Eastern countries, many teams from the Saudi Pro League have also purchased many of soccer’s top stars.

Why would top stars such as Ronaldo, Benzema, and Neymar go to an inferior league compared to Europe’s top soccer leagues such as the Premier League and Ligue 1? Money is the only answer.

The Saudi Pro League had been an inferior league ever since its inception, as are most non-European leagues. Players such as Ronaldo and Neymar are entering the beginning of the end of their playing careers, it only makes sense to take more money. Neymar for example was purchased from French club PSG and would accept a record $300 million contract for Saudi club Al Hilal, making $1.75 million a week. Even for a superstar like Neymar, this was a huge overpay by Al Hilal, but it brings much more recognition to the club and the Saudi Pro League as a whole. These Saudi teams also have near-endless amounts to throw around at players.

Lesser coveted players such as Ruben Neves decided to leave his former club Wolves in the Premier League for $60 million, while his market value is estimated at only around $40 million.

Other stars such as superstar Lionel Messi turned down an unprecedented $400 million a year contract from Saudi club Al Hilal to instead join MLS side Inter Miami, but still is getting paid $60 million a year and a stake in Apple TV, which is the main broadcaster of the MLS, which can arguably make Messi more money than what the Al Hilal contract offer could have made him.

It all begs the question, is it ethically okay for soccer stars to play in a country that has had a history of human rights abuses, or will players only go after the extra buck? And is it okay for fans of teams to support their favorite teams after they’ve been bought by an ethically questionable source such as Newcastle? Or should leagues prohibit the actions of their players from joining the Saudi Pro League? Or should leagues make a “50+1” rule that the Bundesliga has in place, where the fans own a majority stake in the team, while Premier League teams are almost all now owned by outside influences?

The massive total of money that has begun to corrupt the beutiful game has turned it into just a money making cash-cow in my eyes. It’s just disappointing when players are taking life-changing money instead of making the ethical choice of staying in Europe.

Now, that doesn’t mean that European countries have not had human rights abuses in the past. Many, if not all countries across the world have committed such awful crimes, but none such as recent as Saudi Arabia.

Personally, I would rather be loyal to a team and not leave for more money to a boss who has skeletons in their closet. I can understand why players are joining Saudi teams in droves, money means a lot to many people, in most folks eyes its more important to take as much money as possible rather than staying at their original club, and fans will just have to accept that.

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About the Contributor
Ben Hollis
Ben Hollis, Chief of OP-ED
Hello! My name is Ben and this is my second year on staff. I am the local Chocolate Milk Connoisseur of this joint.