The development of the Saudi Pro League cannot be ignored, with one 24-year-old star saying he was enticed by a move there but ultimately chose Aston Villa.
In any case, it speaks something about Unai Emery’s persuasiveness that he was able to get the highly-rated ace to Villa Park, but clubs must now take the Pro League’s purchasing power seriously. Though the Premier League may still claim to be the finest in the world, this is due to the product as much as it is to the kind of players that can be attracted.
Whereas in the past the gold rush was in the Chinese Super League, the framework for a top league was never really sustainable there, and that’s the polar opposite to what appears to be happening in Saudi. They are certainly building for the long term and whilst the majority of players that have gone there so far have been in their early to mid 30s, the power brokers will only need to flash a few more million euros to get the cream of European football talent to consider their league alongside any other.
” I have to admit that I thought long and hard about it. When you see all the players leaving and the financial conditions on offer, you tell yourself that you can quickly put everyone around you in a good situation,” Moussa Diaby admitted to Onze Mondial.
“But I also know that you have to live your sport to the full and have no regrets. The Premier League is the most competitive league in the world. I wanted to rub shoulders with the best teams. I’m not denigrating the Saudi league, because I sincerely believe that they are building something very coherent.” Villa, like many other teams across the continent, must be aware of the immense resources available in the UAE while still doing their best on the field to ensure that stars like Diaby do not consider moving elsewhere.