Has an Asian soccer league ever received so much attention?
Every summer, the European football transfer market always brings a hot topic. The same goes for the transfer market. Lionel Messi has left Europe, which he has been fond of, and Kylian Mbappe is in serious conflict with Paris Saint-Germain (PSG). Also, Tottenham’s iconic striker Harry Kane’s transfer to Bayern Munich continues. In addition, Kim Min-jae and Lee Kang-in joined Munich and PSG, respectively, and drew a lot of attention.
There are so many keywords like this in the transfer market this summer. However, it cannot be explained without mentioning this country. That’s Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s leading oil producing countries. It is well known as a rich country. The same goes for teams in the top league, the Saudi Professional League. Teams well-known to domestic fans, such as Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad, have always brought in players who stand out in the K-League. Not only that, but from time to time they have made headlines by signing players who are somewhat known in Europe. It has such strong financial power.
However, there was a limit to the Asian soccer league. No matter how much money it has, it only attracts attention within Asia, but the Saudi league could never exceed the infrastructure and name value of the European league.
But a change has begun. Al Nasr signed Cristiano Ronaldo in December last year. The annual salary is a whopping 200 million euros (approximately 287.3 billion won). Although his performance is not as good as before, Ronaldo is a ‘superstar’ who has left a mark in football history. These superstars have come to Saudi professional leagues that are not well known globally. This was a sign of change. This summer, Al Ittihad signed Karim Benzema and N’Golo Kante. Al-Hilal and Al-Ahli also used their financial power to recruit European stars no less than them. The Saudi League has quickly become a league that is attracting attention from all over the world.
The reason why the Saudi league is raising the plate like this is because of the ‘Saudi Arabia Vision 2030’ project. Saudi Arabia wants to reduce the country’s dependence on oil by 2030 and create a diversified economy. One of those various places is ‘football’. It is developing the Saudi league to promote economic growth in the football sector.
The Saudi League was launched in 1968 under the name of the Saudi Regular League. It was subsequently renamed Saudi Category League and Saudi Premier League in 1974 and 1975, respectively. It was a time of transition. And from 2008 until now, it has been using the name of the Saudi Professional League (SPL). If you include Roshn, the largest real estate company run by the Saudi dynasty and the official sponsor of the league, it also has the name RSL (Roshn Saudi League).
The Saudi league is held at the same time as the European league. Usually from August to May of the following year. The 2023-24 season will run from August 12th to May 28th next year. Also, from this season, a total of 18 teams will participate, and each team will play 34 matches in a home-and-away format. Last season, a total of 16 teams participated in the league.
Teams placed 1st and 2nd in the league and the winners of the King’s Cup, Saudi Arabia’s equivalent of the FA Cup, can obtain tickets to the Asian Football Confederation Champions League (ACL) finals. The third-place team in the league advances to the ACL playoffs. The bottom 3 teams in the league are relegated.
Among these 18 teams, 4 teams can be picked as the teams that are receiving the most attention. They are Al Hilal, Al Nasr, Al Ittihad, and Al Ahli. The Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, which is also the owner of Newcastle United, nationalized the four teams. Thanks to this, only these four teams are gathering European stars.
From 2023 to 24, the Saudi Professional League will be broadcast live exclusively in Korea on SPOTV NOW, operated by sports broadcasting channel Spotibi. It is also available on premium sports TV channels SPOTV ON and SPOTV Prime.
◆ Al Hilal
Al Hilal is a team very familiar to domestic soccer fans. It is the most winning team in the Saudi league (18 times) and the most winning team in the ACL (4 times). Last season, they advanced to the ACL finals, but finished runner-up to Urawa Reds (Japan). In the 2021 competition, they defeated Pohang Steelers and won the championship.
Last season, he finished 3rd in the league, but won the ACL finals ticket by winning the King’s Cup. And this summer, Kalidou Koulibaly, Sergei Milinkovic-Savic, and Hubin Neves were recruited to successfully reinforce their strength. Here’s ahead of the scout of Marco Verratti from PSG. If you complete this scout, Al Hilal will have a midfield that is as good as that of the big European clubs that lead to Verati, Milinkovic-Savic, and Neves.
◆ Al Ittihad
Al Ittihad is also a prestigious team in Saudi Arabia as well as Al Hilal. The league has been won nine times, and the ACL trophy has been lifted twice. Last season, they beat Al Nasr to win the league title.
Al Ittihad is a team that terrified K-League teams in the early 2000s. In the 2004 ACL final, they met Seongnam Ilhwa and trampled them down mercilessly with a combined score of 6-3 in the first and second games. Furthermore, in the second leg, which was Seongnam’s home game, they won the championship with a 5-0 victory. At the time, Seongnam was the best team in the K-League, but they showed a lethargic appearance in front of Al Ittihad and lowered their heads. However, they met and lost to Pohang in the 2009 ACL final. In 2011, they failed to beat Jeonbuk Hyundai in the semifinals. Like this, the K-League team is a team that created many stories.토토사이트
Al Ittihad also built a force as strong as that of Al-Hilal. Real Madrid’s main goalkeeper and last year’s Ballon d’Or winner, Benzema, was signed. Subsequently, Kante and Fabinho, from Europe’s best defensive midfielders, were brought in from Chelsea and Liverpool, respectively.
◆ Al Nasr
Al Nasr did not receive much attention compared to the previous two teams. The league championship won a total of 9 times as with Al Ittihad, but it did not produce much results in the ACL. It was all about lifting the Asian Cup Winners Cup in the 1997-98 season, the predecessor of the ACL. However, with the signing of Ronaldo, the Saudi rush was fired, and Sadio Mane and Marcelo Brozovic were successfully recruited.
In addition to this, Al-Ahli has brought in well-known players from the Premier League, such as Roberto Firmino and Riyad Mahrez. Al Etipark has fewer recruits compared to other teams, but it left a big impact with the appointment of director Steven Gerrard and the signing of Jordan Henderson.