SAUDI PRO LEAGUE
Kalidou Koulibaly gives his reasons for lucrative Saudi Arabia move
The former Chelsea defender admitted that the money was a key factor, but added that moving to a Muslim country also had an appeal.
So far this summer many of the biggest transfer deals have involved teams in the Saudi Pro League, snapping up some of the most well-known names in Europe on massive deals.
Following in the footsteps of Cristiano Ronaldo, his former teammate Karim Benzema shocked the world by agreeing to move to Al-Ittihad. N-Golo Kante and Ruben Neves have also made the move to the Gulf state, as well as former Chelsea defender Kalidou Koulibaly.
After his exit from the Premier League side was confirmed the Senegal captain gave an interview with Italian outlet Corriere dello Sport, outlining why he was willing to move from top-ranked league in the world to the 58th.
“I can’t deny it. With this money I will be able to help my whole family to live well, from my parents to my cousins,” the 32-year-old said.
“I will also be able to invest in the activities of my charity Capitaine du Coeur in Senegal. We started to build a clinic in my parents’ town. I have many projects to help young people”.
But the financial package, thought to be a three-year deal worth around $380,000 per week, is not the only factor that convinced him to swap West London for the Middle East. Koulibaly was raised in Senegal where the majority religion is Islam. He is a devout Muslim and said that he is excited to live in a country that shares his faith.
“I am a Muslim, I can move to an ideal country for me and my family,” he explained. “Mecca is near. I am a believer, so it is important to me. I am in my place, there I am. I’m going to feel better.”
He is far from the only recent arrival in Saudi Arabia who may feel at home in the majority-Islam nation. Benzema and Kante - as well as rumoured Saudi targets Riyad Mahrez and Edouard Mendy - are practising Muslims.
The influx of new players is expected to continue throughout the summer as the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) pours money into the national league with the aim of boosting both the quality and the profile of football in the country.