Written By Onyeka Daniel
This year, it’s been all about Saudi Arabia and how they’ve been able to sign players for huge transfer fees and offering them mouth watering salaries to leave the competitive European football for the Middle East to play their last few years before retiring.
The fact that they’re not constrained by financial fair play rule had made it much more harder for clubs and players to resist their offers with Chelsea being one of their main market. But it looks like they would be getting their first push back, but it’s definitely not for overspending, but for failing to keep to a contractual agreement instead.
Saudi Arabian club, Al-Nassr have been hit with a FIFA ban preventing them from registering new players. The nine-time Saudi champions became one of the first clubs to secure a big name within the footballing landscape as they secured a deal for the former Manchester United forward.
The Portuguese is earning £173m a year and his arrival has led to an influx of stars to Saudi Arabia. A number of familiar faces from European football have also moved to there in recent times, Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kante, Kalidou Koulibaly and Edouard Mendy all made the move, while Steven Gerrard has become the new manager of Al Ettifaq.
While most these players are in their early 30s, hence their transfer can be justified, Portuguese midfielder, Ruben Neves also moved to Saudi at the age of 26yrs, meaning he is just entering the prime of his career and UEFA President, Aleksander Ceferin has already said that there’s nothing that they can do about the recent spending, so it could be left to FIFA to probably come up with a law to checkmate them.
Al-Nassr also bought Marcelo Brozovic from Inter recently and the ban will halt all transfer activities for Al-Nassr, from registering new signings, whether for domestic or international transfers. The sentence imposed will cover three transfer window windows and concerns non-payment of bonuses to Leicester City as part of a £14m deal for Nigerian striker Ahmed Musa.
Al-Nassr owe the Foxes £390,000 but have not yet paid and are now being punished accordingly. The Nigerian international joined Leicester city immediately after their title success in 2016 but enjoyed little success in England, scoring just five goals in 33 appearances for the Foxes before being allowed to return to his CSKA Moscow on-loan.
He was then sold to Al-Nassr for a fee believed to be in the region of £14m in 2018. He found better success in the Middle East, scoring 14 goals in 62 games for Al-Nassr, helping them win the league in the 2018/19 season. In total, he played 60 games for Al-Nassr before being released as a free agent two years later.
An official ruling from FIFA claims that the Saudi side have failed to pay €460k plus interest in performance-related add-ons. The ruling was originally released in October 2021, with Al-Nassr being warned that they would have a transfer registration ban imposed should they fail to pay Leicester the outstanding amount.
It’s now believed that they have failed to comply with the ruling and have had a registration ban imposed upon them. That applies to both domestic and international transfers, meaning stars from abroad cannot currently be registered.
FIFA’s initial ruling came in 2021 and was then supported by the CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport), which sided with Leicester on the matter. Al-Nassr were told to pay the remaining fee as agreed under the terms of the contract or be banned. FIFA’s original ruling stated that the ban would account for three entire and consecutive transfer windows.
Al-Nassr were also warned that the matter would be presented to the FIFA Disciplinary Committee should Leicester still not be paid by the end of the ban. With the recent take over of the top four clubs in the Saudi Arabian league (Al-Nassr, Al-Ittihad, Al Hilal and Al Ahli) by the Public Investment Funds (PIF), who also own EPL club, Newcastle United, the matter would be swiftly resolved to avoid further sanctions.
It has been reported that the side’s new management under PIF will ensure that a repeat will not be occurring, whilst the payment for Musa will be paid to Leicester in order to lift the ban. Given how much that they’ve spent so far in the transfer market, it’s a little fee compared, but it’s a breach of contract regardless and they’ve been punished accordingly.
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