Has an Asian soccer league ever received so much attention?
Every summer, the European football transfer market always brings a hot topic. The same goes for the transfer market. Lionel Messi has left Europe, which he has been fond of, and Kylian Mbappe is in serious conflict with Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) 메이저사이트. Also, Tottenham’s iconic striker Harry Kane’s transfer to Bayern Munich continues. In addition, Kim Min-jae and Lee Kang-in joined Munich and PSG, respectively, and drew a lot of attention.
There are so many keywords like this in the transfer market this summer. However, it cannot be explained without mentioning this country. That’s Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s leading oil producing countries. It is well known as a rich country. The same goes for teams in the top league, the Saudi Professional League. Teams well-known to domestic fans, such as Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad, have always brought in players who stand out in the K-League. Not only that, but from time to time they have made headlines by signing players who are somewhat known in Europe. It has such strong financial power.
However, there was a limit to the Asian soccer league. No matter how much money it has, it only attracts attention within Asia, but the Saudi league could never exceed the infrastructure and name value of the European league.
The Saudi league is held at the same time as the European league. Usually from August to May of the following year. The 2023-24 season will run from August 12th to May 28th next year. Also, from this season, a total of 18 teams will participate, and each team will play 34 matches in a home-and-away format. Last season, a total of 16 teams participated in the league.
Teams placed 1st and 2nd in the league and winners of the King’s Cup, Saudi Arabia’s equivalent of the FA Cup, can obtain tickets to the Asian Football Confederation Champions League (ACL) finals. The third-place team in the league advances to the ACL playoffs. The bottom 3 teams in the league are relegated.
Among these 18 teams, 4 teams can be picked as the teams that are receiving the most attention. They are Al Hilal, Al Nasr, Al Ittihad, and Al Ahli. The Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, which is also the owner of Newcastle United, nationalized the four teams. Thanks to this, only these four teams are gathering European stars.
From 2023 to 24, the Saudi Professional League will be broadcast live exclusively in Korea on SPOTV NOW, operated by sports broadcasting channel Spotify. It is also available on premium sports TV channels SPOTV ON and SPOTV Prime.
◆ Al Hilal
Al Hilal is a team very familiar to domestic soccer fans. It is the most winning team in the Saudi league (18 times) and the most winning team in the ACL (4 times). Last season, they advanced to the ACL finals, but finished runner-up to Urawa Reds (Japan). In the 2021 competition, they defeated Pohang Steelers and won the championship.
Last season, he finished 3rd in the league, but won the ACL finals ticket by winning the King’s Cup. And this summer, Kalidou Koulibaly, Sergei Milinkovic-Savic, and Hubin Neves were recruited to successfully reinforce their strength. Here’s ahead of the scout of Marco Verratti from PSG. If you complete this scout, Al Hilal will have a midfield that is as good as that of the big European clubs that lead to Verati, Milinkovic-Savic, and Neves.
◆ Al Ittihad
Al Ittihad is also a prestigious team in Saudi Arabia as well as Al Hilal. The league has been won nine times, and the ACL trophy has been lifted twice. Last season, they beat Al Nasr to win the league title.
Al Ittihad is a team that terrified K-League teams in the early 2000s. In the 2004 ACL final, they met Seongnam Ilhwa and trampled them down mercilessly with a combined score of 6-3 in the first and second games. Furthermore, in the second leg, which was Seongnam’s home game, they won the championship with a 5-0 victory. At the time, Seongnam was the best team in the K-League, but they showed a lethargic appearance in front of Al Ittihad and lowered their heads. However, they met and lost to Pohang in the 2009 ACL final. In 2011, they failed to beat Jeonbuk Hyundai in the semifinals. Like this, the K-League team is a team that created many stories.
Al Ittihad also built a force as strong as that of Al-Hilal. Real Madrid’s main goalkeeper and last year’s Ballon d’Or winner, Benzema, was signed. Subsequently, Kante and Fabinho, from Europe’s best defensive midfielders, were brought in from Chelsea and Liverpool, respectively.
◆ Al Nasr
Al Nasr did not receive much attention compared to the previous two teams. The league championship won a total of 9 times as with Al Ittihad, but it did not produce much results in the ACL. It was all about lifting the Asian Cup Winners Cup in the 1997-98 season, the predecessor of the ACL. However, with the signing of Ronaldo, the Saudi rush was fired, and Sadio Mane and Marcelo Brozovic were successfully recruited.
In addition to this, Al-Ahli has brought in well-known players from the Premier League, such as Roberto Firmino and Riyad Mahrez. Al Etipark has fewer recruits compared to other teams, but it left a big impact with the appointment of director Steven Gerrard and the signing of Jordan Henderson.