Pep Guardiola has admitted you can’t ignore the financial power of Saudi clubs.
Pep Guardiola admitted that the Saudi Pro League’s financial muscle can no longer be ignored after Manchester City were powerless to stop Riyad Mahrez leaving.
Mahrez has sealed a £30million move to Al-Ahli with reported wages as high as £750,000 a week, leaving City with decisions to make on potential replacements.
Premier League stars Jordan Henderson, N’Golo Kante, Ruben Neves, Edouard Mendy and Allan Saint-Maximin have also cashed in on the riches offered in Saudi Arabia.
Guardiola – who claimed that he wanted to keep Mahrez at the Etihad Stadium – believes more will follow, presenting a problem for the country’s biggest clubs.
‘Riyad got an incredible offer and that’s why we could not say don’t do it,’ Guardiola said. ‘Our thoughts were for him to stay here, definitely.
‘A few months ago when Cristiano [Ronaldo] was the only one to go, no one thought this many top, top players would play in the Saudi league. In the future there will be more and that’s why clubs need to be aware of what is happening.
‘Saudi is not about being a threat, it is a reality. They want to create a strong league and so far they are the league who can do it. The Premier League spent more than the others because the organisation is better and the broadcast rights are higher.
‘The Saudi league, I don’t know how long they will sustain that. But the players want to take this experience and play in that league. Saudi Arabia has changed the market.’
City have been looking at wingers and do like Crystal Palace’s Michael Olise but it remains to be seen how they replace Mahrez.
Guardiola suggested that there is no like-for-like signing available. ‘We are not looking for replacement for Riyad in terms of skill because every player is different,’ he added.
‘We will see what happens with loan players [leaving], and which players stay here. A few things are going to happen. The market is open until end of August.
‘It is not easy to replace this kind of player. He doesn’t feel the pressure, he is a guy who has to play every single day to be happy. I understand completely.
‘I know how tough it was to not play in the FA Cup final and Champions League final. It was really good to work with him. Our relationship was ups and lows, but always with incredible respect.’
Match highlights: Andre Onana Master Class Performances vs Wolves
The Cameroonian played with courage on his competitive debut and, unlike in the friendly against Lens, his tendency to roam...