Saudi Pro League's Foreign Quota for Signings Explained

Saudi Pro League's Foreign Quota for Signings Explained

Ero Samson
July 5, 2023 at 12:19 PM
  • Saudi Pro League has been on a signing spree of Europe’s elite stars
  • The Saudi League recently increased the limit on the number of foreign players per team
  • This move will allow their clubs to sign more top stars from European football

Saudi Arabia lit up the transfer space with the unprecedented signing of Cristiano Ronaldo by Al Nassr.

This act has since spiralled as loads of household names in European football have joined the five-time Ballon d'Or winner in Saudi Arabia.

Karim Benzema and Ngolo Kante have both signed for champions Al Ittihad, managed by Nuno Espirito Santo, while Kalidou Koulibaly and Ruben Neves have penned lucrative deals with Al Hilal, the league's most decorated team.

Cristiano Ronaldo
Saudi Arabia lit up the transfer space with the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo. Image: AFP.
Source: Getty Images

Edouard Mendy became the second Chelsea player to move to Saudi after sealing a switch to Al Ahli.

Roberto Firmino and Marcelo Brozovic recently completed their moves to Al-Ahli and Al Nassr respectively.

Saudi sides are causing utter chaos in the market, almost replicating what happened in the Chinese Super League a few years ago when the likes of Carlos Tevez, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Oscar, and many more were lured to the Far East for serious cash.

However, there is a cap on how many foreign players each team can have in their squad.

In 2016/17 the limit was four players and even a rule whereby no goalkeepers from abroad could be signed as reported by

Saudi League foreign transfer limit

Over the years this cap has been gradually increased, with clubs allowed no more than eight foreigners in their ranks.

The Saudi Arabian Football Federation recently held a meeting with the heads of the country’s top-tier league clubs in Riyadh to increase the number of foreign players allowed on their books in the coming seasons.

Saudi Professional League clubs were previously allowed to register up to seven overseas players, but since the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo, the league governing body has raised the quota for foreign players to eight.

Karim Benzema
Karim Benzema joined Saudi club Al-Ittihad from Real Madrid. Image: Khalid Alhaj.
Source: Twitter

It should be recalled that when Ronaldo signed, Al Nassr had to offload striker Vincent Aboubakar in order to free up a spot for the Portuguese superstar.

Sky Sports have said the Saudi Pro League want to have 100 of the best foreign players in the world plying their trade within the next five years as they look to compete with other leading leagues.

There's also a huge change starting with next season, as 18 teams will be in the top flight as opposed to the previous 16 as per reports from 90mins.

Two teams will be relegated to the second division, instead of three like before.

“The large international leagues that are highly competitive have between 18 teams and 20 teams,” SAFF President Yasser Al-Misehal said as quoted by Saudi Gazette.
“We saw that it was time to take an additional step here in Saudi Arabia and raise the number of clubs to 18 in the professional league, starting from the 2023-24 season.”

Foreigners in the Saudi league

The recent adjustments made to the Saudi Pro League quota on foreign players have attracted a long list of players including a few notable additions:

Felipe Caicedo - Abha Club

Robin Quaison - Al-Ettifaq

Cristian Tello - Al Fateh

Moussa Marega - Al Hilal

Andre Carrillo - Al Hilal

Ruben Neves - Al Hilal

Tarek Hamed - Al Ittihad

N'Golo Kante - Al Ittihad

Karim Benzema - Al Ittihad

Bruno Henrique - Al Ittihad

Talisca - Al Nassr

Cristiano Ronaldo - Al Nassr

Gonzalo 'Pity' Martinez - Al Nassr

Alvaro Gonzalez - Al Nassr

David Ospina - Al Nassr

Ever Banega - Al Shabab

Naldo - Al Taawoun

Alvaro Medran - Al Taawoun

Kaku - Al Taawoun

Collins Fai - Al Tai

Munir Mohamedi - Al Wehda

Roberto Firmino - Al-Ahli

Marcelo Brozovic - Al Nassr

Edouard Mendy - Al-Ahli

These experienced stars will combine both their skills and experience to help their respective teams, hence elevating the level of competition in the Saudi Pro League.

Steven Gerrard
The Saudi league is also looking to make its mark in coaching. Image: Sam Bagnall.
Source: Getty Images

The Saudi league is also making its mark in the dugout, with influential figures including Steven Gerrard, Nuno Espirito Santo, and Vicente Moreno serving as managers, while Ronaldo, Naldo, and Ever Banega take on captaincy roles within their clubs.

Saudi’s pull of Europe’s elite

Sports Brief previously reported on the Saudi Pro League’s sudden pull of Europe’s elite football stars.

Sceptics have labelled this move as sports washing and tied it to be a replica of the failed Chinese player pull of the 2010s.

It remains to be seen if the Saudi ambition with these marquee signings will be achieved.

Ero Samson photo
Ero Samson
Samson Ero is a sports journalist with a track record of over five years in the Nigerian media industry. He graduated from Nigerian Institute of Journalism (2021-2023).
WorldTransfersCristiano RonaldoKarim BenzemaEnglish Premier League - EPL