Mohamed Salah and Alisson among Saudi Pro League’s top transfer targets

<span>Alisson Becker and <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Mohamed Salah;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Mohamed Salah</a> are under contract at the club until 2027 and 2025 respectively.</span><span>Photograph: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC/Getty Images</span>

Clubs in the Saudi Pro League will pursue another wave of big-name transfers this summer in an attempt to increase its profile, with Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah and Alisson among the Premier League players being targeted. It is understood there are also plans to increase competitiveness in the league by attracting private businesses to sponsor clubs who are not backed by the country’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).

Only the Premier League spent more on transfers in the 2023 summer window than the Saudi Pro League, with almost 100 overseas players moving there at a cost of roughly £750m. But while not all of those have been successful, with Jordan Henderson having cut short his stay at Al-Ettifaq after six months, sources in Saudi Arabia have said there is increasing confidence the league can continue to attract the best players from Europe.

Salah, the subject of a £150m bid from Al-Ittihad last summer that was rejected by Liverpool, is said to be an “obvious target”, while the Brazil goalkeeper Allison – whose contract at Anfield expires in 2027 – is also thought to be of interest to several Saudi clubs. Manchester United’s Casemiro and Raphaël Varane, who confirmed on Tuesday he will leave Old Trafford at the end of the season, are among the other Premier League players to have been linked with moves in recent days.

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In January, the former Manchester City defender Aymeric Laporte claimed “there are many players that are discontented” in the Pro League after his move to Al-Nassr. While there is understood to be recognition among club officials in Saudi Arabia that settling in the country can be a challenge for some players, it is hoped the opening of the first of 50 planned exclusive resorts in the Red Sea last year will help attract them. Salah, whose Liverpool deal runs until June 2025, is believed to be receptive to a move given he goes on holiday to nearby Hurghada in Egypt every summer.

The quota for foreign players in the Pro League has been extended from eight to 10 for next season, although two of those must be under the age of 21. That means most clubs will have to make room for any new signings by moving players, with league officials keen to improve the overall strength of the competition by helping some of the smaller clubs to improve their squads.

Last July, PIF, which also owns a majority stake in Newcastle, took control of four sides – Al-Ittihad, Al-Ahli, Al-Nassr and Al-Hilal – as part of an ambitious government initiative to help develop the country’s domestic league into one of the top 10 in the world. The state-backed oil company Aramco bought a stake in Al Qadsia, who were promoted this season, while other government-affiliated companies have also invested in Pro League clubs.

But there is a recognition among league officials that to create a strong competition requires more investment in its other clubs, with average attendances for six of them having been well below 4,000 last season. It is hoped a change to Saudi Arabia’s Code of Law Practice, which came into effect in December, that requires foreign companies to register their businesses in the country rather than overseas will attract investment for some of the smaller clubs, with local companies also being encouraged to come forward.

“It is important that the Saudi Pro League offers a real test to any players who come here and to do that we must improve the overall standards,” said one source.