Professional soccer in Saudi Arabia has received a lot of attention recently.  The league has been around since 1976, but this season, it has attracted more foreign superstars than ever before.

Cristiano Ronaldo signing with Al-Nassr in January was the first major move. It saw Saudi Arabia take its first step toward realizing its vision. This vision of becoming a worldwide soccer hub.

At the beginning of the year, the Portuguese allegedly signed a deal for over $400 million. This will be paid over the course of two and a half years.

In the aftermath of this, the Saudi league shocked the globe by signing some of the sport’s biggest names. Several teams from the Kingdom are now under the control of the Public Investment Fund (PIF).

This is the country’s sovereign wealth fund. As a result, they have been able to recruit some of the sport’s greatest stars.

The PIF, which is owned by the government, virtually quadrupled the worth of these four teams. As a result, they have the highest estimated value in the nation, according to Transfermarkt.

According to their figures, when the European transfer window closed, the four clubs controlled by the PIF had spent close to $900 million.

This money went on the acquisition of star players from across the world. Together with other soccer powerhouses they were among the top 20 clubs in the world based on their spending.

It led to other A-listers also accepting lucrative contracts with the Saudi Pro League (SPL) with little hesitation. For example, Karim Benzema, the winner of the 2022 Ballon d’Or, left Real Madrid to sign with Al-Ittihad.

How did Maldini fare with AC Milan?

The Saudi league has already attracted a number of well-known players, coaches, and directors. They are now trying to lure in some fresh names. It’s been five months since Paolo Maldini left AC Milan, and he’s got the chance to work in Saudi Arabia.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s unexpected retirement following the last game of the previous season was a heartfelt ending to a turbulent campaign. At the time, the AC Milan legend and his deputy, Ricky Massara, were still the technical and sports directors of the Serie A giants.

Paolo Maldini did bring the Scudetto back to AC Milan during his time as Sporting Director

Maldini served as a director in Milan and was praised for bridging the gap between squad and board. He was also well-respected for his role as team leader, having taught the players the value of wearing the Rossoneri jersey.

However, it became clear shortly before the game that they were being removed from their positions. Rumors began to circulate that the team’s locker room was not taking the news well. Suggestions that Maldini was plotting to switch out coach Stefano Pioli for Andrea Pirlo were never popular.

Al-Ittihad shift focus from coach search as Maldini eyes Saudi role

Since leaving Milan so abruptly, Maldini has remained jobless. However, Italian transfer expert Fabrizio Romano claims that he is now the leading contender to take over as director of Al Ittihad, ushering in a new era for the Saudi Pro League.

Soon, he will make a decision about his future, and a possible destination is Al-Ittihad, who just parted ways with Nuno Espirito Santo as their coach. If the 55-year-old former defender were to accept the position in Jeddah, he would be work with an intriguing squad of players.

The Saudi club currently boasts former Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema, along with the previous World Champion N’Golo Kante, as well as Fabinho, and Luiz Felipe among their ranks. After firing Nuno Espirito Santo on Wednesday, Al-Ittihad’s first objective right now is to hire a new coach.

Photo credits: IMAGO / Beautiful Sports : IMAGO / Marco Canoniero