Everton winger Demarai Gray has now completed a move from the Premier League to Saudi Arabia’s Al Ettifaq. With the Saudi Pro League transfer window closing late on Thursday, we look at five other rumoured deals that could go through before the deadline.
The football transfer story of the past couple of weeks. Liverpool are said to have rejected a “verbal offer” worth £150 million ($188m) for their star man to join Al Ittihad, the Saudi champions. An increased bid is reported to be coming from the kingdom, but Liverpool have been staunch in their stance that Salah is not for sale (he has two years left on his contract). Plus, it feels as if any potential transfer, socially of this stature, has been left too late this window; with the Premier League deadline passed, Liverpool could not replace Salah until January at the earliest. The Egyptian, one of Europe’s top players and the world’s most famous Arab footballer, has obvious appeal to Saudi. However, more likely one for future.
David de Gea
Cast aside somewhat surprisingly by Manchester United, the Spanish goalkeeper remains a free agent. De Gea spent 12 years at Old Trafford and, while Andre Onana was brought in this summer given his superior ball distribution, it is a shock no European club has plumped for his predecessor. Still only 32, De Gea has been linked with a move to Saudi, where a reunion with Cristiano Ronaldo at Al Nassr is mooted. The Riyadh side currently have Nawaf Al Aqidi as their No 1, in the continued absence of injured Colombian David Ospina. De Gea would undoubtedly represent an upgrade; Al Aqidi was particularly culpable in Nassr’s opening defeat to Al Ettifaq.
A story that has rumbled all summer, the Italian midfielder has for some time been considered an option for Saudi. Verratti, a hugely accomplished central midfielder, has not featured for Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) thus far this season, as the Ligue 1 champions look to rejig their team and rid the club of what is perceived to be a poor dressing-room culture. Only last month, Verratti was reported to have agreed personal terms with Al Hilal, although the record Saudi champions currently look well stocked in both midfield – Ruben Neves, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Mohammed Kanno, Salman Al Faraj - and the squad. Could Brazilian winger Michael be sacrificed to make room in Hilal’s foreign quota? A Verratti transfer to Qatar, though, appears more plausible.
Once one of the lead footballers in Europe, the Belgian forward’s career has spiralled since his switch from Chelsea to Real Madrid in 2019. Hazard, now 32, has been hindered significantly by injury and fitness issues, limiting him to only 76 appearances in four years with the Spanish club – and six in La Liga last season. In all, he has a meagre seven goals for Madrid. Such has been Hazard’s downturn, he retired from international football, aged 31, following last year’s World Cup. Obviously, given his uninspiring spell in Spain, Hazard would have to prove he has both the physical capacity and motivation to continue; reports this week have suggested he is considering retiring from playing altogether. Al Shabab and Al Ettifaq were at one time linked.
Another goalkeeper whose long tenure in the Premier League seems behind him, the France captain is no longer the No 1 at Tottenham Hotspur. Lloris, 36, lost his place to summer signing Guglielmo Vicario and was therefore expected to end his 11-year association with Spurs for a potential return to Nice, where he began his senior career. A World Cup winner, and runner-up last time in Qatar, Lloris was identified from the outset as a concrete target for the Saudi Pro League. Linked also with Lazio, PSG and Marseille, maybe Lloris could still find a way out of Spurs, with Al Nassr an obvious possibility should they seek both a prominent goalkeeper and one with the profile to nicely sit alongside Ronaldo, Sadio Mane and Co.