Soccer stars who took Saudi blood money looking to bail on league

The Saudi Pro League, once seen as a looming threat in the world of football, is now facing challenges that are hindering its progress. The league was initially considered a fertile dumping ground for clubs to offload aging players who were no longer in their prime and could be enticed by a big payday. However, recent developments suggest that the Saudi government’s efforts to elevate the league to the level of Europe’s Big Five are being hampered.

One of the major issues plaguing the league is the discontent among some of the new recruits. Reports have emerged of players who arrived in Saudi Arabia during the summer transfer window but are already looking to leave just six months into their contracts. Jordan Henderson, who joined Al Ettifaq, is one such player. He now regrets his decision and wants to return to the Premier League to secure his place in the England team for the upcoming Euros. Henderson is not alone in his desire to leave, as rumors circulate about other players like Karim Benzema, Roberto Firmino, and even Neymar seeking to undo their decisions to prioritize money over everything else.

There are several reasons behind this discontent. Firstly, the climate in Saudi Arabia is not conducive to playing football. While the temperatures might be pleasant during the winter season, they can reach unbearable levels during the early part of the season and into the spring. Playing in such conditions can be challenging and uncomfortable for many players. Additionally, despite the significant financial incentives, the league fails to attract a substantial number of fans. Most teams struggle to fill their stadiums, with only a handful of clubs averaging more than 10,000 spectators per game. This lack of fan support can contribute to a less exciting and motivating work environment for players.

Another significant factor contributing to player dissatisfaction is the impact on their personal lives. Saudi Arabian laws and restrictions, particularly those concerning women, can be oppressive and limiting. Players’ wives often struggle to adapt to the country’s regulations, leading to long-distance relationships or unhappiness within the family. The cultural shock and language barrier can add further strain to the players’ personal lives, making their time in Saudi Arabia challenging and unenjoyable.

It is important to note that the situation is not solely based on external factors. Some players are dissatisfied due to poor performances on the field. For instance, Henderson’s team, Al Ettifaq, has been underperforming this season, which may have contributed to his desire to leave. Similarly, Firmino has struggled to secure regular playing time at Al-Ahli, which could be a motivating factor for him to seek opportunities elsewhere. Additionally, Benzema faced criticism from fans and media, which may have affected his decision to stay with Al-Attihad.

While money can often solve many problems, it remains to be seen whether these players will actually leave the league. However, their stories serve as a warning for future recruits who may be enticed by lucrative offers. The challenges faced by players in Saudi Arabia, such as the extreme weather conditions, low level of play, lack of fan support, and strict laws, are unlikely to change in the near future. As a result, the Saudi Pro League’s ambitions of becoming a major player in world football may have to be put on hold for now.

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