The lucrative transactions between the newly prominent Saudi Pro League and clubs around Europe don’t seem to be slowing down, with more and more deals being announced every week.
One club that has established a particularly close business relationship with the Saudi Pro League in recent weeks is Chelsea.
N’Golo Kante and Kalidou Koulibaly have already headed to Saudi Arabia, while Hakim Ziyech and Edouard Mendy are expected to follow their former Blues team-mates in doing so.
Chelsea are under pressure to sell players this summer in order to balance the books and comply with Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations following a spending spree of more than £600m since the club’s new ownership group took over the club last year.
It also comes after the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund (PIF), which owns fellow Premier League club Newcastle United, took control of four of the Saudi Pro League’s biggest clubs – Al Nassr, Al Hilal, Al Ittihad and Al Ahli – earlier this month.
And according to reports, PIF also has investments in private equity group Clearlake Capital – which is part of the ownership group at Chelsea. Meanwhile, Todd Boehly, who also part owns Chelsea, has seen another of his businesses – Cain International – join with PIF to invest $900 million into a hotel chain.
This has led to some debate and questions as to what role, if any, the Saudi PIF is playing when it comes to Chelsea, and whether its purchasing of Chelsea players for Saudi clubs is in anyway linked to its other business interests.
Reports have also suggested the Premier League has received assurances from Boehly that PIF had no involvement in the takeover of the club, which would have potentially created a conflict of interest due to their ownership of Newcastle.
And football finance expert and host of The Price of Football Weekly Podcast, Kieran Maguire, believes accusations of foul play so Chelsea can get around FFP rules are wide of the mark.
“This is definitely a perceived conflict of interest, and I don’t quite get it with the accusations which have been levelled at Saudi Arabia and PIF in this”, said Kieran.
“We have (Kai) Havertz going to Arsenal for a big fee and potentially have Mason Mount going to Manchester United. Nobody’s pointing the finger at some form of American conspiracy are they?
“Nobody bats an eyelid elsewhere and I think it’s because Saudi Arabia is in the eye of the storm at present. People are putting two and two together and getting five.”