The rise of the Saudi Professional League has led it to start being represented by many superstars in several notable international and continental tournaments around the world. With the European Championship set to be played in Germany next summer, a bunch of SPL players from the old continent are competing alongside their compatriots for a spot in the national team roster.
The primary superstar of the league, Cristiano Ronaldo, who is currently ranking first in the goalscoring chart in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has just confirmed his super performances beyond the Asian continent and led his Portuguese national team to be one of the first nations to mark their name with the teams who would participate in the aforementioned continental competition.
Spanish coach Roberto Martinez, who is taking the lead of the Portuguese national team, would almost certainly call up Ronaldo for the Euros, who, despite approaching 39 years of age, is still performing at his best. Portugal, who have one of the richest squads in the world, at the moment, they are lacking in experienced world-class center-forwards. Only Gonçalo Ramos might bring some of competition to Ronaldo.
The likes of Beto (Everton), Vitinha (Olympique de Marseille), Fabio Silva (Wolverhampton) and André Silva (Real Sociedad) are either still raw, lacking experience or top-level qualities, which makes the chances of CR7 higher to snatch a place, and most likely, a starting spot in the tournament. Ronaldo is not the only player who is likely to represent Portugal in the European Championship, as Al-Hilal’s Ruben Neves has some strong chances to make it as well.
While the midfielder is hardly starting in Roberto Martinez’s 3-4-3, he still made appearances in 7 out of the 8 games in the qualifying games, most of them as a substitute. Neves has only missed the away game against Slovakia, as he has featured against Liechtenstein, Iceland, both games against Luxembourg and both games against Bosnia.
The former Wolverhampton midfielder is definitely in the plans of the Spanish gaffer and would most likely follow Cristiano Ronaldo in representing the SPL in the Euros. The same goes for Ronaldo’s club and national teammate Otavio, who has joined him at Al-Nassr coming from Portuguese giants FC Porto in the latest transfer window.
Otavio plays a completely identical role as Ruben Neves for Roberto Martinez. In the 8 qualifying matches, he has started (one), got subbed on (6) and missed (one) the same as Neves did. There is also Jota, from Al-Ittihad. The winger has been discarded from the Saudi Professional League squad list of the Tigers, but he is said to be still on the plans of Nuno Espirito Santo, who will reportedly count on him in the AFC Champions League.
Jota, who plays on the left flank, has a lot of competition, with the likes of Rafael Leao (AC Milan), Joao Felix (FC Barcelona), Diogo Jota (Liverpool) Pedro Neto (Wolverhampton) and others. Plus, his situation with the Black and Yellows does not help, as his future is still blurry, amid interest of Premier League powerhouses Tottenham Hotspur, with club coach Ange Postecoglou looking to get his former player back to play under his lead.
The ex Celtic forward has never been selected to represent the first team of Portugal, despite his solid displays with the Scottish giants last season, so his chances now are even less so. As for the Portuguese players who might join the Saudi Professional League before the start of the European Championship, Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva might be the main candidate.
The playmaker has renewed his contract with the Citizens in the latest transfer windows, but the Italian transfer guru Fabrizio Romano, Bernardo has a fairly low release clause in his contract, worth around 50 million euros. The Saudi clubs, and most notably Al-Hilal, were really keen on landing Bernardo in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, before he opted for extending his stay with the Premier League and Champions League titles holders.
Should the Blues or any other Saudi giant side convince Bernardo to join in thanks to their financial power and promising sporting project, that clause would most likely not be a problem in acquiring the services of the player. Bernardo is obviously a starter for the national team and there is no reason for Martinez to keep him out from the squad, nor the starting eleven, in such a prestigious tournament.
Pedro Neto has also aroused the interest of the SPL, as the latest reports have suggested that Saudi sides are one of the many admirers of the Wolves winger, alongside the likes of Arsenal, with the player having his chances to play, even against such world-class players like Leao and Felix. Cristiano Ronaldo, Ruben Neves and Otavio all look set to represent the Saudi League in next summer’s Euros, as Portugal attempt to win their second European Championship in three attempts.
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Anadolu Agency / Ali Al-Haji / AFP