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No Ronaldo, Neymar, Benzema in Champions League: Uefa chief quashes rumours

Rumours circulating that Saudi Pro League teams could participate in the Champions League were quashed by Uefa chief Aleksander Ceferin

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Saudi Pro League clubs will not play in Uefa Champions League. Photo: Twitter/X

BS Web Team New Delhi

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Uefa chief Aleksander Ceferin quashed all rumours of Saudi Pro League clubs getting wild card entry to the European club competitions such as the Champions League, Europa League and Conference League in the near future. 

This also means that the chances of seeing the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Neymar Junior play in Europe’s toughest club competitions have been washed down the drain. 

All these players along with the likes of Sadio Mane and Jordan Henderson joined the Pro League in the last two years to make it one of the wealthiest and most followed football leagues in the world. 

“Only European clubs can participate in the Champions League, Europa League and Conference League,” Ceferin was quoted as saying to L'Equipe. "A media outlet talked about this without even asking us," added the Uefa chief. 

What was the rumour?

It was reported by several media outlets that clubs from the Saudi Pro League will get direct entry into the Uefa Champions League. Saudi League’s Chief Operation Officer Carlo Nohra further fuelled the rumour saying, “We are trying to be different. So any change or improvement that can be introduced to the league will be welcome.”

What does Uefa chief Ceferin think of Saudi poaching superstars?

Reacting to the question of whether Saudi Arabia has emerged as a threat to European football’s popularity after it has assembled big names, Ceferin said that he was not worried about it at all. He gave an example of China to counter the argument. 

“It's not a threat, we saw a similar approach in China, which bought players at the end of their careers by offering them a lot of money. Chinese football didn't develop and didn't qualify for the World Cup afterwards,” said the 55-year-old European football's administrative head. 

Top players are not joining Saudi League: Ceferin

Caferin, who comes from Slovenia and has a long football administration and law career, said that only those players who have no future left in Europe are heading towards Saudi for monetary gains. He gave an example of Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe to prove his point. 

“There are players at the end of their careers and others who aren't ambitious enough to aspire to the 'top' competitions. As far as I know, [Kylian] Mbappe and [Erling] Haaland don't dream of Saudi Arabia,” he said. 

“I don't believe that the best players at the pinnacle of their careers would go to Saudi Arabia. When people talk to me about the players who went there, nobody knows where they're playing,” added the Slovenian. 

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First Published: Aug 31 2023 | 9:03 PM IST

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