Gary Lineker insists the Saudi Pro League WON’T rival English football until a player ‘like Kylian Mbappe’ agrees to go
- Gary Lineker is unconcerned by any imminent threat from the Saudi Pro League
- Saudi Arabia’s top-flight is attempting to lure top European stars to the nation
- But Lineker admitted the threat to the Premier League is currently minimal
Gary Lineker is unconcerned that Saudi Arabia will rival the Premier League, despite the Middle East’s clamour to bring household names to the Kingdom.
The Saudi Pro League has ramped up their recruitment efforts since Cristiano Ronaldo cut ties with Manchester United and became their most high-profile name in December last year.
Since then, Saudi Arabia’s biggest clubs have began delving deeper into their bounty of riches with a host of Premier League talents ditching the English top-flight for the huge wages on offer.
Jordan Henderson gave up the Liverpool captaincy to seal a £700-000-per-week deal to join Steven Gerrard at Al-Ettifaq, Ruben Neves left Wolves, while N’Golo Kante and Edouard Mendy were some of the names to swap Stamford Bridge for life in the desert.
However, while club chiefs in the form of Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp warn of the growing attraction from Saudi Arabia, Lineker feels that any imminent threat to the Premier League is minimal.
Cristiano Ronaldo (right) became the first high-profile name to move to Saudi Arabia, but Kylian Mbappe (left) recently refused to entertain talks over a move to the nation
Gary Lineker believes the threat posed by the Saudi Pro League is minimal until they sign a current star like Mbappe (pictured)
While they Ronaldo and current Ballon d’Or holder Karim Benzema now ply their trade scoring goals in Saudi Arabia, the league has been unable to attract a world class player in the prime of their career.
They attempted to do so by offering Paris Saint-Germain’s hero-turned-villain Kylian Mbappe an outrageous deal worth over £600m-per-year, but the French superstar refused to even hold conversations over a move.
And until they are unable to do so, Lineker is largely unconcerned by the threat posed by Saudi Arabia’s football ambitions, as he explained writing in his column for the Sun.
The 62-year-old Englishman said: ‘But until they sign Kylian Mbappe, or another genuine world star in his prime, then the major European clubs will remain relaxed about it.
‘Right now, it’s just the latest league where older players go to die their footballing deaths — like Karim Benzema joining Al-Ittihad — for one last earner.
Lineker insisted similarly to the MLS’ ability to sign Lionel Messi (right) the Saudi Pro League is a place for players at the end of their careers
Lineker is largely unconcerned by the threat posed by Saudi Arabia’s football ambitions
‘It’s the same with Major League Soccer in America, it was the same with China for a while, and I did it myself in Japan at the end of my playing career.’
Lineker is no stranger when it comes to swapping England for opportunities elsewhere as he did when he left Everton to move to Barcelona in 1986, but the lure of the Camp Nou has always been about more than just money, unlike Saudi Arabia.
The iconic presenter’s admission that the Middle East is the same case as America’s rise to become a late-career resting home for stars is reinforced by Lionel Messi’s decision to leave Europe for Miami.
There is belief in the Premier League that Saudi Arabia is capable of continuing with their splash-cash approach for the next decade, but according to Lineker, the Middle East’s offering shouldn’t prompt irrational fear amongst European ranks.