Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané have had different Saudi fortunes since leaving Liverpool

Roberto Firmino of Al-Ahli and Abdullah Khateeb of Al-Ettifaq react after the latest yellow card during the Saudi Pro League match between Al-Ettifaq and Al-Ahli SFC at Prince Mohamed bin Fahd Stadium on March 29, 2024 in Ad Dammam, Saudi Arabia.

Liverpool is expecting Mohamed Salah to stay put this summer. The club intends to address his contract situation in due course, and in any event has no plans to lose him before his existing deal expires in 2025.

That was the big news from The Athletic earlier this week. It came amid increasing noise that Liverpool might decide to cash in on Salah this summer, amid the possibility of joining former teammates Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané in Saudi Arabia.

But while Saudi interest in Salah remains — the Arab star would be the jewel of the Pro League's crown — the recruitment drive this summer is expected to be less 'aggressive' than the one which saw Firmino and Mané arrive last year. Few would have predicted at the 2022 Champions League final that all of the iconic Liverpool trio would be in Saudi Arabia in two years' time, and it seems that is now unlikely to come to pass.

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If a big bid from Saudi Arabia came in, Liverpool would still have a question to answer. But there's another question over whether Salah would even still be open to a move, with the division's reputation arguably taking a hit since last summer.

It was always going to take some time to significantly elevate the quality, but it will have come as a blow to the Saudi project when an Al-Ittihad side containing Fabinho, Karim Benzema and N'Golo Kanté was beaten by Egyptian giant Al-Ahly in the quarter-finals of the Club World Cup. And the wealth of stars that joined the league last summer have had somewhat mixed individual fortunes too, with Mané and Firmino demonstrating that point.

It's been a reasonably successful move in a footballing sense for Mané. He initially left Liverpool for Bayern Munich in 2022, but was on the move again the following summer after a disappointing campaign.

He duly arrived in Saudi Arabia with a point to prove. Of course, it's up for discussion quite how much of a point can be proved in a division which until recently was something of a non-entity, but it's true that he has measured up well against many of the other sides who joined from among Europe's elite.

Joining Cristiano Ronaldo at Al-Nassr, he has hit 12 league goals and notched six assists in 27 league appearances. While some way behind Ronaldo (29), Mané is among the league's top 10 scorers.

He's also contributed to a deep run in the King's Cup, scoring in each round up to the upcoming final, with an assist as well in the quarter-final. His strike against Steven Gerrard's Al-Ettifaq settled the contest in extra time.

Firmino has had a more testing time of things. Scoring a hat-trick in his very first league game, it looked as though he would take the division at a stroll, but that has not been the case.

In fact, it took until February 16 for Firmino to notch his next league goal. He followed that up with two goals and an assist in his next outing, but has since been on another long goal drought, despite playing 90 minutes in almost every match.

Overall, six goals and five assists are just about respectable if unspectacular numbers, but the fact Firmino has only scored in three league games out of 26 rams home the truth. Since arriving from Liverpool on a free transfer, the Brazilian has been one of many high-profile disappointments. says: Mané and Firmino are safe in their Liverpool legend status regardless of their fortunes out in Saudi Arabia. It's perfectly valid to criticize their moves there, but there is at least less of the hypocrisy that so outraged everyone with Jordan Henderson's ill-fated switch.

But it's fair to say that Firmino, in particular, has been struggling. Still contributing in his final Liverpool season with significant involvements off the bench, it's surprising to see him fail to get up to speed with the Saudi league, but that's the inherent risk in the division's strategy of targeting veterans reaching the end of their peaks.