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'Europe was the Saudi Arabia of the last 20 years' - Gabriel Veiga defended by Jorge Valdano after 'giving up glory for money' by following Cristiano Ronaldo & Co to the Middle East

  • Players flocking to Saudi Pro League
  • Valdano says country loves football
  • Defends Veiga's decision to move

WHAT HAPPENED? The Saudi Pro League has welcomed a host of top stars this summer, with Karim Benzema, Neymar and Sadio Mane among those to have joined Cristiano Ronaldo in moving to the Middle East from top European clubs. Former Celta Vigo starlet Gabri Veiga has also joined the exodus to Saudi, prompting criticism from Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos that his transfer is financially motivated. Valdano feels the Saudi Pro League is here to stay, as evidenced by Veiga's decision to reject interest from top European clubs to sign for Al-Ahil, but doesn't necessarily think that's a bad thing.

WHAT THEY SAID: "Europe should remember that it was the Saudi Arabia of the last 20 years, emptying the most important continents of all talent. Well, they have to know that they have a competitor who has two legitimate rights: one, the money to buy, and two, the love of football," the former Real Madrid general manager told La Nacion. "Because Saudi Arabia is not Qatar, it is a country that loves football even if it does not have the tradition or the background. It is a new blow in the commercialization of football because it is easy to understand that Cristiano and Benzema say I'll open my bag and fill it, but Gabri Veiga, a great Celta promise who is coming out of his shell, has also left. That's practically giving up glory for money. Kroos has said that it is a shame, and from the footballer's vocation the term is well used, but you have to be in the boy's place when something of that magnitude happens. I don't want to give an opinion without having gone through the experience."

THE BIGGER PICTURE: More top stars are expected to head to the Saudi Pro League in the future. Liverpool's Mohamed Salah has emerged as the next top target, with Al-Ittihad reportedly willing to offer over £215 million (€251m/$270m) for the Egypt international.

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Gabri Veiga Celta VigoGettyCristiano Ronaldo Nassr 2023GettyNeymarGetty

WHAT NEXT? The Saudi Pro League could see more new arrivals before their summer transfer window closes on Thursday. A host of players continue to be linked with moves to the Middle East and may be hoping to complete transfers before the deadline passes.