Liverpool have three obvious players who could attract Saudi Arabia transfer interest

Liverpool trio  Joel Matip, Thiago Alcantara and Fabinho. Picture: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty ImagesLiverpool trio  Joel Matip, Thiago Alcantara and Fabinho. Picture: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images
Liverpool trio Joel Matip, Thiago Alcantara and Fabinho. Picture: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images | Liverpool FC via Getty Images
Clubs in Saudi Arabia are targeting several Premier League players and they could turn their attention to Liverpool next.

It was Cristiano Ronaldo who put Saudia Arabia on the global map when it comes to football in the country.

The nation's sovereign wealth fund purchasing an 80% stake in Newcastle United in October 2021 undoubtedly started things off. Yet when one of the greatest players to ever grace the game made the move to Al-Nassr from Manchester United earlier this year, where he would earn a world-record salary of €200 million per year, then people started to sit up and take note.

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To cajole Ronaldo to a league that most wouldn't have previously given much, if any, credence set a fresh precedent. It acted as a shot across the bow ahead of the summer window that it wouldn't be a one-off. That has indeed proven to be the case.

The Premier League's riches have made it become the most dominant in the world. It's the division a large section of players from outside of these shores now hanker for. Yet the Saudi Pro League is causing a disturbance. It seems determined not to just have a sprinkling of stars playing in the Middle East but for plenty of household names to be lured.

The vast spending is already underway. Karim Benzema has already swapped the world's most famous club, Real Madrid, to join Al-Ittihad where he will earn a reported £172 million per year.

N'Golo Kante looks set to depart Chelsea and make the switch to Al-Ittihad where he will bank a suggested salary of £86 million per year. Stamford Bridge team-mates Edouard Mendy, Kalidou Koulibaly and Hakim Ziyech could reportedly follow him to the Middle East. Meanwhile, Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves is not prepared to wait to join Spanish giants Barcelona and instead will join Al Hilal for £47 million.

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You can't help but wonder if more clubs from the Saudi Pro League will look to raid the Premier League before the summer is over. In truth, it's hard to think otherwise. Why would they suddenly curtail their interest?

Plenty of sides may attempt to be plundered by the petrodollar-fuelled division - including Liverpool. The Reds have a swathe of players who are household names who those in Saudi may feel can help could attract a new audience of fans.

Roberto Firmino, who has Anfield at the end of his contract, has already been linked with a move. The Brazil international is still to join a new club following his departure from Liverpool. And in the current squad, there would be two obvious players who may court interest and test the Reds' resolve.

It would have been folly to have even contemplated selling Thiago Alcantara this time a year ago. After a mixed opening season following his move to Anfield from Bayern Munich in September 2020, the midfielder displayed all of his prowess in 2021-22. Thiago was a key player in Jurgen Klopp's side as they fell just two games shy of completing an unprecedented quadruple. Such was the quality of the Spain international's performances, he was named in the PFA Premier League Team of the Season - despite only playing 25 times.

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Yet last campaign proved another season that led to jumbled reviews - mainly because Thiago again suffered injury problems. He went into the season as who many regarded as Liverpool's best engine-room operator but availability, like in previous years, was an issue. Thiago managed just 18 outings in the top flight and was forced to undergo hip surgery in April.

Klopp made that decision so Thiago would be back available for the first day of pre-season training. However, when the Reds reconvene at the AXA Training Centre next month, there are question marks surrounding where the 32-year-old will sit in Klopp's pecking order.

Alexis Mac Allister has been recruited for £35 million while at least one more midfielder is expected to arrive before the window shuts. Then factor in Trent Alexander-Arnold's new role after he was pushed into a hybrid right-back/ midfielder in the business end of the season that reaped the dividends. There is a debate about whether both Alexander-Arnold and Thiago can operate together in the new system.

What's more, Curtis Jones' form he displayed in the final 11 games will also not go forgotten while youngsters such as Harvey Elliott and Stefan Bajectic should only improve.

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Thiago, no doubt, will have a role to play. Someone of his ilk can conduct matches effortlessly in the middle of the park. On his day, he is unplayable. But given his age and injury record, reliance can no longer be placed on him. With a year remaining on his deal, Klopp won't be pushing the former Barcelona midfielder out of the door. He still has plenty to offer. But if a bid was lodged for Thiago then it surely would be contemplated. Having been signed for around £27 million, Liverpool could recoup some of that fee and top up their transfer kitty to spend on the likes of Khephren Thuram or Manu Kone.

Joel Matip finds himself in a similar position to Thiago. When reflecting on Klopp's era as manager in the future, the centre-back's contributions shouldn't go unpraised. Matip was signed from Schalke on a free transfer in 2016 and it has proven to be a shrewd acquisition. In his maiden Anfield season, the defender helped Liverpool return to the Champions League. A return to Europe's elite pathed the way for the likes of Mo Salah, Alisson Becker and Virgil van Dijk to be prised to Merseyside. Those additions resulted in the Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup, Carabao Cup, Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup being added to the trophy cabinet.

Matip has made a total of 187 appearances for Liverpool, scoring 11 goals. He started the 2019 Champions League final triumph over Tottenham Hotspur as well as the victory in the Super Cup that same year and Carabao Cup final win in February 2022.

The former Cameroon international is another who Klopp will not be actively looking to offload. He's still a reliable performer. But, like Thiago, Matip is in the final year of his contract. Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konate are firmly the first choice centre-half pairing while Joe Gomez is tied down until 2026. With Liverpool also in the market for another defender in the window, that could limit Matip's opportunities further.

Given that he turns 32 in August and the Reds didn't pay a penny for his services, banking a small fee may be financially prudent.

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