Saudi Pro League director Michael Emenalo has admitted “the door is not closed” to a future bid for Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah.
Salah was identified as one of the Saudi league’s top two targets earlier this summer, alongside Paul Pogba, but plans to pursue a deal in 2024 were brought forward 12 months as Al Ittihad reached out to try and sign the Egypt international this year.
A verbal offer of £150m was rejected by Liverpool and Al Ittihad then made it clear they would be prepared to break the world transfer record – Neymar’s £200m move to Paris Saint-Germain in 2017 – if Liverpool decided to entertain offers.
While some inside Liverpool were keen to at least hear such an enormous proposal, the majority – including manager Jurgen Klopp – were strongly against selling Salah and the Reds ultimately survived Saudi Arabia’s attempts to sign their star.
Emenalo was asked about the interest in Salah during a recent interview with Sky Sports News and he refused to rule out reigniting the pursuit in the future.
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“First and foremost, Salah is one of the best players on the planet,” Emenalo said. “I’ve said before, privately and publicly that we welcome anybody that wants to come to the SPL. That includes Salah.
“But we have to do things in a very professional and respectful manner. That’s what we’re there for, it’s what the SPL has been refined to do – bring professionalism, respect of efficiencies, and do things in a competent way.
“If it didn’t happen, it’s not because we no longer fancy the player, or because we have a problem with Liverpool. It’s because certain things that need to align didn’t. Nobody is angry, we move on, but we close no doors and if the opportunity is there to do things and do it well, and it brings Mo Salah to the SPL, we’ll be very grateful.”
Emenalo went on to deny claims that the Saudi league will succumb to the same fate as the Chinese Super League, whose immense investment during the 2010s ultimately ended after just a few years.
“Not only will it last longer, but I believe it will be there to stay and it will continue to grow,” he concluded. “If anyone has paid any attention to Saudi football, it will know that its population are very passionate about the game. This is a well put-out plan that has been existence for a very long time and there is a simple fact that the effort made in this window shows there will be easy interest in the best footballers joining the league.
“We are not just bringing players in to pay them so that they can run around and be famous for a few days. There is an embedded plan to improve the infrastructure and develop the academies, recreational football. There is a bigger strategy to that. It is not just acquisition for players, that’s why I believe the league is here to stay for a very long time.”
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On this edition of Talking Transfers, part of the 90min podcast network, Scott Saunders is joined by Graeme Bailey to discuss Al Ittihad’s attempts to sign Mohamed Salah, Jadon Sancho’s Man Utd future, the players that could still leave the Premier League and more!
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