Why Saudi bids for Mohamed Salah, Alisson and Virgil van Dijk are now unlikely

Despite interest from Saudi Arabia in Mohamed Salah, Alisson and Virgil van Dijk, a shift in strategy in the Middle East makes it unlikely Liverpool will see bids.

Last summer, there was a major movement when it came to the market, with heavy spending from the Saudi Pro League convincing players to join.

Fabinho, Roberto Firmino and Jordan Henderson all left Liverpool for clubs in Saudi Arabia, while Sadio Mane, Neymar, Riyad Mahrez, Aymeric Laporte and Gini Wijnaldum were among a plethora of other big names to arrive.

With ludicrous salaries on offer, it seemed for a while that there was a new long-term threat to clubs in Europe – and Liverpool were forced to reject eye-watering offers for Salah.

But while there are reports of interest in Salah, Alisson and Van Dijk from the league this summer, it is not likely that any deals will be brokered.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, May 18, 2024: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Wolverhampton Wanderers FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 2-0. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Reporting for Bloomberg back in March, Fahad Abuljadayel explained that Saudi clubs “will not repeat their footballing spending spree.”

This comes after “the kingdom made plans to reduce losses and build a more sustainable domestic transfer market.”

It should be explained that, though players were signed to particular clubs, those moves were largely financed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund – on behalf of the government and controlled by the royal family.

“Saudi clubs were allocated a three-year budget last summer by the state’s sovereign wealth fund, and there are no plans in place yet to increase this allocation,” Abuljadayel relayed.

Put simply, after a collective spend of around £700 million last summer, any further signings would almost certainly be required to be funded by sales.

Roberto Firmino scored a hat-trick on his Al Ahli debut (STR/AP).

And given the majority of players who moved to Saudi Arabia are past their peak, it is highly unlikely that any sales would recoup the fees spent to bring them to the Middle East.

“The deals were not signed for just one season, so it is imperative to the clubs to try to act,” the league’s chief operating officer Carlo Nohra explained.

“They will have to offload players to free up some budget to be able to buy new ones.”

It is added that, while broadcasting deals in over 130 countries will remain in 2024/25, the league is still struggling to boost attendance figures.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, May 5, 2024: Goalkeeper Alisson Becker of Liverpool after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC at Anfield. (Photo by Ryan Brown/Propaganda)

That was predictable, with it effectively a manufactured environment in a sport which has been built on its organic appeal, and Nohra admitted that “nothing is going to change overnight.”

There have already been suggestions that the Saudi Pro League will await the expiry of contracts for players like Salah and Man City‘s Kevin De Bruyne before pursuing free transfers.

In that, there is a more likely eventuality than Liverpool receiving head-turning offers for Salah, Alisson or Van Dijk this summer.