France star N’Golo Kanté joins Karim Benzema at Al Ittihad amid Chelsea Saudi Arabia suspicion
A number of players have been linked with moves to Saudi Arabia, whose Public Investment Fund is involved with the Blues’ owners.
The Saudi Pro League revolution appears to be picking up pace. Cristiano Ronaldo at Al Nassr was their first high-profile signing – and they don’t get much more high-profile than the Portuguese superstar – before reigning Ballon d’Or holder Karim Benzema left Real Madrid for Al Ittihad. Portugal international Ruben Neves appears set to join Al Hilal rather than move to Barcelona, while it has now been confirmed that World Cup-winning midfielder N’Golo Kanté will leave Chelsea to join Benzema in Jeddah.
On Wednesday, Al Ittihad revealed on social media that the 32-year-old had accepted their offer and would make the move to Gulf state once his contract with the Blues comes an end on 30 June. Free agent Kanté had at one point been mooted as a transfer target for Barça but has ultimately decided to leave European soccer for the first time in his career.
How much will N’Golo Kanté earn at Al Ittihad?
The midfielder was a key part in France’s World Cup win and 2020/21 Nations League triumph and won the Premier League twice, including once with Leicester City, the Champions League and the Europa League during his spell in England. However, Kanté barely played last season because of a long-standing hamstring problem.
The Frenchman has signed a four-year contract in Saudi Arabia and will earn a reported €25 million ($27.27 million) per season, which does not include image rights or commercial deals.
Chelsea’s links to Saudi Arabia
Further reports suggest that Chelsea are attempting to use the Saudi Pro League’s wealth as a vehicle to get a number of unwanted players off their wage bill, which has raised eyebrows about the role of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund as investors in Clearlake Capital, who own 60% of Chelsea.
The suspicion is that the Blues could use their connections with the Arab nation to get high earners out of the club and get around Financial Fair Play regulations, while, at the same time, the Saudi Pro League would have easy access to elite-level soccer players. Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville, who works as a pundit for UK broadcaster Sky Sports, is among those who have called for the Premier League to look into the links.
Ziyech expected to join Ronaldo at Al Nassr
According to Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano, Morocco international Hakim Ziyech will link up with Ronaldo at Al Nassr, with a deal until 2026 all but done, while goalkeeper Edouard Mendy has agreed to join Al Ahli on a three-year contract. Defender Kalidou Koulibaly and forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have also been strongly linked with moves to the Middle East.