It's fair to say that 'Money makes the World go round'. But it's equally right to say that 'Money can't buy you Happiness'. This second saying seems particularly apt for Saudi Arabian football at the moment, with many of the 'big name' European players and managers, lured to the Middle East by massive salaries, enduring a less than stellar start to life in Saudi Arabia.
Liverpool were one of a number of clubs, to feel the full force of the Saudi Governments resources during the summer, with both Jordan Henderson and Fabinho lured away from Anfield. Roberto Firmino also joined them, though he was already leaving on a free transfer. Many eyebrows were raised at the time, with people questioning why high level footballers (some with plenty of years ahead of them), would swap the highs of the Premier League and Champions League, for the unknown quantity that was the Saudi Pro League.
The simple answer of course, is money. But for a sport where the fans, and the atmosphere and intensity inside the stadium, play such an integral part of the game, can money really replace playing infront of 60,000 Reds fans, singing 'You'll Never Walk Alone". The obvious answer is no, but with attendances in Saudi Arabia falling by the week, many players are beginning to wonder just why they swapped the Premier League for the Pro League.
Smaller attendances than non-league football in the UK
We wrote several weeks ago about Henderson's new team, Al-Ettifaq, playing in front of a record low crowd of just over 700. Well, after Saturday's game, that record is now even smaller, after his side were watched by just 610 people! To put that into perspective, Oxford Cty, who sit 22nd in the Vanarama National League, have an average attendance of 930! Of course, the game last Saturday against Al-Fayha, which ended 0 - 0, was just one game, with Al-Ettifaq's average attendance for the season standing at 6,571. But even this is less than the avereage attendance at Chesterfield, who sit top of the Vanarama National League. And it pales into insignificance when compared to the average attendance at Anfield, where Henderson played for 12 seasons.
Henderson is not the only ex-Red to be feeling the heat in Saudi. Steven Gerrard, who manages Henderson at Al-Ettifaq, is coming under pressure, after his side won just 1 of the last 7 games, and sit seventh in the league.
Hendo's former teammate Roberto Firmino is also struggling. Despite scoring a hat-trick on his debut for Al-Ahli, the striker has failed to find the net since, and has now been benched for the last 2 games. This is despite the fact that he was made Captain earlier in the season. Al-Ahli currently sit fifth in the league, but there is little evidence Firmino will be getting into the starting eleven any time soon.
With Saudi teams being limited to the number of overseas players they can name in their squad, it is likely that some of the big names signed in the summer, may be moved on in January, just 6 months after joining. All of this should act as a warning, to other players thinking of following the money trail to the Saudi Pro League, that money can't buy happiness, or a successful career....
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Peter Farrell - Editor and Chief Article Writer, LFC - Back On Our Perch
Articles written by Author :: 366
Lifelong fan with a passion for all things Liverpool. First memory of football is watching John Barnes score a dramatic last minute equaliser in the FA Cup when he was 4. Feels lucky to be a part of the 'Klopp' era.
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