Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino is alongside his former Reds teammate Sadio Mane as being an ambitious transfer target for clubs in Saudi Arabia.
According to Ben Jacobs in this week’s edition of his exclusive CaughtOffside column, the Saudi government has as many as 20 big names on their list, with Firmino and Mane up there, while Luka Modric and N’Golo Kante have also been looked at and may be deemed more realistic targets again at some point in the future.
Firmino has been a great servant to Liverpool, but will be out of contract at Anfield this summer, so there’s bound to be plenty of interest in him this summer.
Mane, meanwhile, also surely faces an uncertain future after a poor season at Bayern Munich, but he was also a star player alongside Firmino for many years at Liverpool.
It would truly be some statement by Saudi clubs if they could bring in big names like these, following on from Cristiano Ronaldo’s arrival earlier this season.
Jacobs adds that Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets will also most likely be heading to a Saudi club next after it was announced that he’d be leaving the Nou Camp.
Roberto Firmino in action for Liverpool
“Sergio Busquets leaving helps clear a healthy chunk off Barcelona’s wage bill. What a fantastic servant he has been bowing out with his ninth LaLiga title at the club. Saudi Arabia is now a likely destination,” he wrote.
“People often ask me about a specific club out there. But these kinds of government-backed deals are complicated. The Saudi Pro League, led by ex-Manchester City executive Garry Cook, work on any high-profile deal along with the government. And once funding is in place they pitch a club, or series of clubs, to the player.
“This means in order to grow the league players can be dispersed across many clubs. It’s the same with Lionel Messi. We often hear of an Al-Hilal offer, and that is the most likely and talked about destination. But with player buy-in Messi could be pitched to Al-Nassr, to play alongside Ronaldo, or Al-Ittihad, allowing him to play in the 2023 Club World Cup if they win the league, which is looking likely.
Sadio Mane in action for Bayern Munich
“The Saudi government has a list of around 20 players they want. Some like Busquets are gettable. Others like Luka Modric or N’Golo Kante are less so for now but that doesn’t mean they won’t be revisited in future years. Two other names on the list are Bobby Firmino and Sadio Mane.
“Messi will decide at the end of the season on his future. The Saudi offer, worth about £320m a year, remains on the table. But Barcelona desperately want Messi back and the feeling remains Messi would ideally like to stay in Europe.”
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