As the Saudi Pro League continues its ambitious quest to secure top-tier talents from the Premier League and beyond, it inadvertently positions itself as more than just a destination for marquee signings.
The league’s robust financial prowess, characterised by a willingness to invest significantly, is set to take centre stage once again with the looming January transfer window.
Amid their pursuit of star players, the Saudis inadvertently create a potential lifeline for several Premier League clubs burdened with surplus talent eager for a fresh start.
The dynamic sets the stage for an intriguing intersection of interests, where the aspirations of the Saudi Pro League to bolster its ranks align with the hopes of English clubs looking to streamline their squads.
The winter market is poised to serve up some intriguing twists, and we’ve identified five Premier League clubs eyeing the prospect of leveraging Saudi interest to part ways with their unwanted players in January.
Manchester United – Jadon Sancho
Amidst the escalating discord between Jadon Sancho and manager Erik ten Hag at Manchester United, a January departure seems inevitable for the out-of-sorts winger.
Juventus and Barcelona are monitoring the situation, but financial constraints may hinder their pursuit, considering Man United’s valuation and Sancho’s wage demands.
Sancho’s situation appears tailor-made for a Saudi intervention, but whether or not the 23-year-old will be open to such a move remains to be seen.
He had interest from the Middle East during the summer but opted to remain at Old Trafford. However, the dynamics have shifted, setting the stage for a potential big-money move to the Gulf nation in January.
Arsenal – Thomas Partey
Questions were raised regarding Thomas Partey’s long-term future at Arsenal following the big-money arrival of Declan Rice, but a summer move never materialised.
However, a January move could be on the cards, considering he has only amassed 251 minutes of Premier League football in an injury-plagued campaign.
Partey has been setback by a groin problem and hasn’t featured for Mikel Arteta’s side since a 15-minute cameo in the historic victory over Manchester City.
He is unlikely to feature for the Gunners for the rest of 2023 and may not return until February, as he will join the Ghanaian national team for the Africa Cup of Nations in January.
Constant injury problems have plagued Partey since he joined Arsenal in 2020, and the Saudi Pro League could be a potential destination for the midfielder if the Gunners consider cutting their losses.
Manchester City – Kalvin Phillips
Kalvin Phillips is destined for a Man City exit in January, and the Saudi Pro League will be licking their lips at the prospect of snapping up another established England international.
However, the midfielder could be leaning towards staying in the English top flight amid plenty of interest from a handful of clubs, including Newcastle United and West Ham United.
The Englishman is desperate to make the England squad for the 2024 European Championship, and leaving Man City for more first-team minutes will significantly bolster his chances.
While the Saudi League may not be the most viable option, the allure of a big-money proposal could sway the midfielder’s decision, given that Jordan Henderson still makes the England squad after his move to the Middle East.
Liverpool – Thiago Alcantara
Thiago Alcantara is yet to kick a ball for Liverpool this season and represents the kind of high-profile player that could appeal to the Saudi Pro League.
His contract at Anfield runs out at the end of the season, and the midfielder can engage in pre-contract negotiations with interested parties in January.
Liverpool will be determined to remove his wages from their payroll, but his injury woes present a substantial obstacle to his European prospects despite interest from several admirers.
The Saudi Pro League emerges as a plausible destination, potentially reuniting Thiago with former Liverpool teammates, including Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Henderson.
Chelsea – Marc Cucurella
Shaking off speculation surrounding his future at Stamford Bridge, Marc Cucurella has reinvented himself under the leadership of Mauricio Pochettino.
After failing to make an appearance in any of Chelsea’s opening six Premier League fixtures, Cucurella has featured in the last six games, slowly establishing himself as a regular fixture in Pochettino’s plans.
However, rumours hinting at his departure from Chelsea persist, and the landscape might shift if an enticing offer emerges from the Saudi Pro League.
Cucurella could face increased competition in the hierarchy when vice-captain Ben Chilwell returns from an injury hiatus, especially with Pochettino favouring Levi Colwill as a full-back.
Despite showcasing his versatility by filling in at right-back during Reece James and Malo Gusto’s absence, the question lingers about whether Cucurella has done enough to cement a place in Pochettino’s plans.