Spanish star Aymeric Laporte has claimed that Saudi Pro League (SPL) players face prejudices at Euro 2024. The defender previously moved from Premier League champions Manchester City for Al Nassr last summer. The Saudi side paid City nearly $30 million for the center back. In the move, Laporte reportedly increased his annual salary from around $7.8 million to $26 million.

Speaking in a press conference at the tournament in Germany, Laporte expressed his frustrations over the treatment of Saudi stars.

“People have prejudices towards the league,” proclaimed the Spanish defender.

“It’s a fact. We are all aware that is quite a ‘recent league’ but people from Europe are going there more all the time.”

“On a marketing level, it is evolving little by little and maybe in the future it will be seen as a much more competitive league than it is right now.”

Defender points to French midfielder’s stellar play at tournament

Laporte then pointed specifically to France star N’Golo Kante’s impressive display at the Euros. The midfielder, like Laporte, previously swapped a Premier League club for Saudi Arabia in 2023. Despite the move, Kante has been the best player on the pitch for the tournament favorites in both of their matchups.

“But I also have to say that the Player of the Match for France has been Kanté two times in a row, which shows something I think,” continued Laporte. “Every league has its level. The rhythm is similar [to the Euros], or at least that’s what I perceive.”

Despite playing in Saudi Arabia, N’Golo Kante has been one of the best players at Euro 2024
Despite playing in Saudi Arabia, N’Golo Kante has been one of the best players at Euro 2024

Despite playing in Saudi Arabia, N’Golo Kante has been one of the best players at Euro 2024

Kante and the Spanish defender are just two of 14 Saudi Pro League players currently at the tournament. Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronaldo headlines the list of stars on Saudi clubs to feature in Germany.

However, international teammate Ruben Neves, the Netherlands‘ Georginio Wijnaldum, Serbian striker Aleksandar Mitrovic, and Romania‘s Nicolae Stanciu are also representing their nation. The latter playmaker has been his team’s top player at the tournament so far as well.

SPL recently rated similarly as Cypress, Czech leagues

Laporte previously made headlines after he reportedly expressed regret regarding the Saudi switch. The defender publicly lambasted working conditions and an overall lack of professionalism within the league. He even went as far as saying that he was not alone in being “dissatisfied” with the league.

Reporters asked the defender about his feature at Al Nassr in the aforementioned recent press conference. Laporte remained tight-lipped on the topic. “I signed a three-year contract, I can’t say much more,” stated the coy Spaniard.

The defender may very well be correct in his assertion that Saudi stars face more prejudices than players currently plying their trade in Europe. Nevertheless, few fans will necessarily feel sorry for the players that voluntarily moved to the league in order to receive massive pay raises.

The Middle Eastern division also has work to do in improving their perception around the world. In fact, the Saudi Pro League was recently rated as the 26th-best soccer league in the world by Opta. The division’s rating was wedged between the Cypriot First Division and the Czech First League.

Photo credits: IMAGO / Nicolo Campo : IMAGO / Ulmer/Teamfoto