Saudi Pro League makes key rule change to speed up hunt for star players

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The Saudi Pro League has made a rule change to add to the number of foreign players on its roster.

Each club will be allowed to register 10 non-Saudi players up from the current eight players, although only eight will be able to take part in each match.

Of these players, eight will be without an age limit, but two would have to be born after 2003 in order to “boost investment in young talent”, the league said.

The changes will come in from the 2024-2025 season. There will also be another change, with squads squeezed from 30 players to 25.

The Saudi Pro League has attracted some top global stars since the flagship signing of Cristiano Ronaldo in December 2022. The likes of Jordan Henderson, Neymar, Sadio Mane and Karim Benzema have all made the switch from European shores to the Middle East.

The majority of foreign signings have been captured by one of the ‘big four’ teams owned by the Public Investment Fund: Al-Ittihad, Al-Ahli, Al-Nassr and Al-Hilal.

However, Henderson is reportedly in search of a move back to Europe, which would be a blow to the league and his own finances. Should he return, the former Liverpool captain is reportedly due to face a £3m tax bill in addition to a hefty salary cut.

Playing for Steven Gerrard’s Al-Ettifaq and living in Bahrain, Henderson is concerned about his England prospects with Euro 2024 on the horizon.

The Saudi Pro League has formed part of the country’s venture into sport, and its own LIV Golf is currently undergoing negotiations over a merger with the PGA Tour.

While Uefa has made it clear that Saudi Arabian clubs will not be allowed to enter the likes of the Champions League and Europa League, Fifa’s new expanded Club World Cup will give the top Saudi clubs a new way of playing against the European giants.