Since Al-Nassr signed Cristiano Ronaldo in 2023, the stocks of the Saudi Pro League have soared exponentially. There has been a tremendous rise in the popularity of the league worldwide. A league that was once only talked about in the Middle East is now being followed closely by football enthusiasts around the world.

Many top European players besides Ronaldo have moved to Saudi Arabia and many more are keen to do so. In this blog, we will review the top players under the age of 30 who have signed up for the Saudi Pro League in recent times.

João Jota

Jota has moved to the Saudi Pro League club Al Ittihad for 29.1 million euros from Scottish Champions Celtic. The 24-year-old came through Benfica’s academy in Portugal before sealing a loan move to Celtic at the start of the 2021-2022 season. That turned out to be a breakthrough season for him. Given his impressive performances, the Scottish giants decided to make his loan move permanent.

During his two-year spell with the Glasgow club, Jota found the back of the net 28 times and had 26 assists to his name. Those stats highlight his capabilities as an outstanding winger. It is safe to say he is at the prime of his career right now and he could have easily moved to any top European club but instead, he chose to join the Al Ittihad.

Ghislain Konan

Ghislain Konan moved to Al Nassr from the French side Stade Reims during the 2022-2023 summer transfer window. The 27-year-old joined the Saudi club on a free transfer after spending four years with the French club. 

He is a natural defender who likes playing in the left-back position. The Ivory Coast international has settled in well with his new club. During the 2022-2023 season, he made 31 appearances for Al Nassr in all competitions and provided 5 assists which are one less than what he managed with Stade Reims during four seasons.

Berat Özdemir

Berat Özdemir is another young player who signed up for the Saudi Pro League during the 2022-2023 summer transfer window. He moved to the Saudi club Al Ittifaq for a fee of 2.44 million euros from Turkish side Trabzonspor.

The 25-year-old was a key member of the Trabzonspor side that won the Super Lig title in 2022. His performances during that season earned him a move to Saudi Arabia. And he has certainly lived up to those expectations by playing a crucial role at the heart of Al Ittifaq’s midfield during the 2022-2023 season.

Also Read: Napoli’s First Serie A Title in 33 Years: How Did Spalletti’s Side Reclaim the Scudetto?

Rúben Neves

Ruben Neves has also agreed to join Al Hilal for 55 million euros from Premier League club Wolverhampton Wanderers. The Portuguese international has enjoyed a great time in England and has been instrumental in all the success achieved by Wolves in the last six years. He played a vital role in securing promotion to the Premier League for Wolves in 2017 by winning the EFL Championship.

His departure is surely a great loss for the English club but at the same time, his move will help to bolster the finances of the club as they had been struggling financially for quite some time. The former Porto man started making headlines in his late teens when he became the youngest player to start as captain in the UEFA Champions League.

He was destined for great things, and he lived up to those expectations in the Premier League with Wolves. But his decision to move away from European football at just 26 years of age is a bit baffling.

Sergej Milinković-Savić

Another top player who has decided to say goodbye to European football for the Saudi Pro League is Sergej Milinković-Savić. The Serbian international will be playing for Al Hilal next season after completing his transfer to the Saudi club from Lazio for 42 million euros. He has been an integral part of Lazio’s squad since signing for them in the 2015-2016 season.

During his time in Italy, Milinković-Savić made 341 appearances for Lazio and scored 69 goals for them. The 28-year-old ranks among some of the best box-to-box midfielders of his generation. It will be interesting to see how things pan out for him in Saudi Arabia.

Significance of signing under 30 players for the Saudi Pro League?

When talking about club football, European football clubs often stand out as compared to football clubs of other continents. European football is followed the most around the world due to the high quality of football that is played by some high-profile players. After Europe, the Chinese Super League (CSL) and the Major League Soccer (MLS) are the two destinations where these high-profile footballers from Europe can be found during the latter stages of their careers.

The Saudi Pro League is also beginning to fall in that category, but recent signings of players under the age of 30 are sending a strong message to the footballing world that this league isn’t a retirement home for European footballers which is refreshing for Asian football. The signing of players like Ruben Neves and Jota who are in the prime of their careers will certainly take Saudi football to new heights.

Saudi Arabia created plenty of headlines during the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar when they defeated the eventual winners Argentina during the group stage. By sharing the dressing room and training with these foreign players the local Saudi players will learn a lot. If things go well then within a few years Saudi Arabia may become one of the powerhouses of football.

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