Friday, September 29, 2023

Saudi Pro League director says clubs aren’t ‘throwing money’ around, rejects Champions League claims and talks Mohamed Salah chase

The Saudi Pro League’s director of football, Michael Emenalo, has defended the division’s summer of extraordinary spending.

Emenalo, who previously worked at Chelsea and Monaco, joined talkSPORT shortly after the close of the SPL’s transfer window where a whopping £800million was spent.

Former Chelsea director Emenalo now works for the SPLGetty

talkSPORTHe joined talkSPORT after the close of the Saudi window[/caption]

Following Cristiano Ronaldo’s winter arrival in the Middle East, Ballon d’Or holder Karim Benzema made the move and has been joined by a whole host of huge names, including Brazilian superstar Neymar.

Some deals, including the £47m Al Hilal paid Wolves for Ruben Neves, led many to suggest Saudi teams were just ‘throwing money’ around, which talkSPORT host Simon Jordan put to Emenalo.

“I reject the notion that this is a throw money at it process,” the former Nigeria international responded. 

“This is a well thought out and well planned process that has been in the offing for a very, very long time.

“Our intention has always been to adhere to the mandates of world football.”

He continued: “There are countries in the world who will look at the Premier League and say it’s overpaying.

“It’s always been the case, when people made journeys to Serie A way back it was also because of economic incentive, and with those incentives comes the realisation that the levels and the ambitions and qualities will also improve.”

Emenlao was then questioned on rumours the SPL is keen to join the Champions League, with some reports claiming that talks have already taken place.

Neymar became the league’s most expensive signingGetty

“No, I don’t know where that’s coming from,” he replied. “I think that’s somebody just taking a dreaming leap into a farfetched future, our goal is to take quality baby steps. 

“The first step is to stabilise our league, make it very entertaining for our fans and in so doing endear fans around the world into what we’re doing, and that’s how we hope to integrate world football.

“That’s not something that I have been privy to, even as part of a discussion or a plan.”

Emenalo also suggested that this summer’s wild spending won’t be a regular occurrence, with other factors soon set for consideration.

He explained: “Some of the players we’ve signed now we’ve signed to three or four year contracts and you only have the opportunity for eight foreigners as it stands. 

“So we will have to move onto other aspects of club development, infrastructure, facilities, and development of young players.”

However, rumours suggest that another huge deal could be on its way in the near future, with Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah attracting Saudi interest.

The Egyptian was reportedly the subject of multiple record bids from Al Ittihad, with the second offer coming after the English transfer window had shut.

Jordan Henderson was one of a number of very well-paid arrivalsgetty

Salah is going nowhere for the time beingGetty

It was then put to Emenalo that the SPL has become a ‘disruptive force’, but he insisted the league has done things properly, and Salah is evidence of that.

“Mo is someone I consider almost like a son, he’s a player that I admire and a human being that I absolutely adore,” he began. 

“But the Saudi Pro League is not about capturing headlines, it’s about putting in processes and doing things properly and the feeling is that at this moment in time a deal was not aligned.

“We said we would do things correctly and as you have seen Mo Salah remained at Liverpool. 

“I remember when I was just about to join Monaco and a certain player [Kylian Mbappe] I would have loved to keep was sold for £168million, it didn’t seem disruptive and there wasn’t all this opera.

“The rumours are never close to the fact and I think what you’re expressing isn’t even close to what it was. I think I will leave the negotiations to where it should belong.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do, but we will do what is right for the SPL and take it one solution at a time.”

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