The Saudi Pro League and Major League Soccer have risen through the shadows and are looking like an upcoming superpower for the sport of football. The European reign over the sport is there but tough times might be around the corner for European football as players past their prime and even in their prime are being lured by Saudi’s wealth and America’s exuberant fame.
After securing Cristiano Ronaldo, Saudi joined the tussle of the transfer market this summer and they were able to pull some big names like Karim Benzema, Riyadh Mahrez, Sadio Mane, and Roberto Firmino. The biggest name that Saudi lured this summer is Neymar Jr who has joined Al-Hilal for a two-year multi-million deal. Another League that has brought big names to its roster is USA’s Major League Soccer.
MLS team Inter Miami signed big names like Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets, and Jordi Alba. MLS has been considered a league of retirement as players like David Beckham, Kaka, Wayne Rooney, and Gonzalo Higuain have retired in this league after their prime was over in Europe. However, after Messi arrived in the MLS, the quality of the game and the viewership and recognition have seen a vast rise in the bar. Players like Asier Illarramendi who have played for Real Madrid in the past have also joined MLS this season.
Meanwhile, European teams have not lost their supremacy as the level of football is still far more competitive than in Saudi or the USA. The big names such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar Jr., Lionel Messi, and Luis Suarez are out of Europe but players like Erling Haaland, Robert Lewandowski, and Kylian Mbappe have maintained the hype in Europe.
The main reason for European domination in football is their roster and the immensely active schedule that UEFA offers. The UEFA Champions League is one of the most competitive tournaments in the world and has an audience base of billions. Even after acquiring big names, Saudi and USA haven’t been able to draw that level of audience as Europe has.
Even after the overflowing money in Saudi and the fame in the USA, it is tough to dethrone Europe as a Football Superpower. The level of professionalism that European clubs provide, is an excellent challenge for clubs in Middle East Asia or North America. Even with a star-studded line-up, Saudi clubs will be an easy target for European clubs. This was shown recently during the friendlies when Al-Nassr was beaten by European teams like SL Benfica and Celta Vigo. Even these teams who are considered Mediocre in the European circuit were able to beat Al-Nassr with a scoreline of 4-1 and 5-0.
Although Saudi and the USA have brought in some big names, they still have a long way to match the level of European football but they have shown a significant improvement in their level of football and they are on the way to a brighter and stronger future in football.