How Top Summer Signings in Saudi League Performed As Mane Scores, Benzema Grabs Assist

How Top Summer Signings in Saudi League Performed As Mane Scores, Benzema Grabs Assist

Godwin Nii Armah Tagoe
updated at August 15, 2023 at 10:42 AM
In this article:
Sadio Mané logo
S. Mané
Al Nassr FC logoFSenegal logo
Roberto Firmino logo
R. Firmino
Al-Ahli SFC logoFBrazil logo
Karim Benzema logo
Al-Ittihad Club logoFFrance logo
Riyad Mahrez logo
R. Mahrez
Al-Ahli SFC logoFAlgeria logo
  • The 2023/24 Saudi Pro League is up and running
  • The No.1 ranked league in Asia is currently home to some of football's big names
  • PSG star forward Neymar could be the latest to join the star-studded competition

The surge of high-profile players heading to Saudi Arabia can be attributed to the influence of Cristiano Ronaldo, whose unconventional yet daring decision to join the oil-rich nation profoundly impacted the transfer market.

Ronaldo's move from Europe to the Middle East and a lucrative contract with Al-Nassr set the stage for a wave of elite talents – both in their prime and approaching retirement – to join the Saudi football scene this summer.

Saudi Pro League, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Al Ittihad, Al Ahli, standings, Al-Nassr, Cristiano Ronaldo, Asia, ranked
N'Golo Kante, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Karim Benzema all starred on their Saudi Pro League debuts. Photo credit: @ittihad_en @ALAHLI_FCEN @AlNassrFC_EN
Source: Twitter

The most recent addition to embrace Saudi riches is Neymar Jr, the forward from Paris Saint-Germain.

Despite attracting interest from La Liga giants FC Barcelona, the 31-year-old Brazilian has finalized an enticing agreement with Al-Hilal, per transfer market guru Fabrizio Romano.

This move comes after successfully clearing all medical examinations, with plans for him to journey to the Gulf region later this week.

Sports Brief delves into the performances of some of the key acquisitions made during the summer transfer window.

Roberto Firmino

The former Liverpool forward got off to a flying start in his debut Saudi Pro League appearance. Firmino inspired Al Ahli, one of the four title contenders, to a 3-1 win against Al Hazem, BBC reports.

He bagged a hattrick while captaining the Royals to a convincing result on their return to the Saudi top flight. The 31-year-old currently shares the top spot in the top scorers' chart with another summer signing - Malcom.

Sadio Mane

Another former Liverpool stalwart, Sadio Mane, had a dream start to his maiden Saudi League appearance when he scored his first-ever goal for Al-Nassr after just four minutes, according to GOAL.

Mane was handed the captaincy armband in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo. Unfortunately, the Senegal international's goal was not enough as Al Ettifaq, a side which features his ex-teammate at Liverpool, Jordan Henderson, secured a 2-1 come-from-behind win.

Karim Benzema

After scoring in his opening three games for Al Ittihad in the 2023 Arab Cup, Benzema had a relatively quiet outing on his Saudi Pro League debut.

Despite not getting his name on the scoresheet, he provided the assist to the game's opener as the Tigers demolished Al Raed.

Riyad Mahrez

The tricky Algerian winger also joined the Saudi wave this summer after joining Al Ahli on the back of a historic treble-winning campaign with Manchester City.

Although Riyad failed to score, he left an indelible impression on the game with his deft touches and trickery. His partnership with Firmino and Allan Saint-Maximin will be a major threat to opposition defenders.

N'Golo Kante

The mercurial French midfielder wasted no time in showing why on his day, he is considered among the best central midfielders in the game.

Kante lasted 82 minutes in Ittihad's 3-0 win against Al Raed. Sitting in front of the defence alongside Fabinho, the midfield combo made their defence almost impenetrable as Nuno Espirito Santo began his title defence with a win and also a clean sheet, thanks largely to the diminutive midfielder.

Notable mentions

Edouard Mendy, formerly of Chelsea, was in the post for Ahli, while Saint-Maximin also played a starring role for the Royals.

Ruben Neves and former Barcelona winger Malcom dazzled for Al Hilal, with the latter bagging a hattrick on his league debut.

Jota and Fabinho also had a fair share of minutes for Ittihad as they contributed to their side's win and consequent ascension to the top of the table after match week one.

Godwin Nii Armah Tagoe photo
Godwin Nii Armah Tagoe
Godwin Nii Armah Tagoe is a Ligue 1, Bundesliga, and La Liga editor with five-year experience. He previously worked with Sports Corna and 360SportsGH.