8 players you completely forgot play in Saudi Arabia including Matheus Pereira

For a number of years, players from European clubs have been drawn to the earning opportunities in China and the USA as an alternative to playing in Europe.

However, in recent years, a growing number of players have chosen to move to clubs in the Middle East thanks to the promise of higher wages.

The most notable leagues that European and South American stars have descended on are the Qatari Stars League and the Saudi Arabian Professional League.

With its five winners of the Asian Champions League, the Saudi Professional League is the more reputable of the two, so here are eight players you completely forgot play in Saudi Arabia.

Ever Banega

Argentine midfielder Ever Banega has played in Saudi Arabia since September 2020, after joining Al-Shabab from Sevilla on a free transfer.

##He also had spells with Atletico Madrid, Valencia and Inter Milan while in Europe and won three Europa League titles with Sevilla.

Since joining Al-Shabab he has gone on to become the club's captain and has scored 10 goals and added 15 assists in 37 appearances for the club.

He twice won the league's player of the month award during his debut season for a string of impressive displays in October and February.

Christian Atsu

Former Chelsea and Newcastle United winger Christian Atsu is one of the newer arrivals in Saudi Arabia, having only joined Al-Raed in July this year.

He joined the club on a free transfer after four years at Newcastle but has so far made just two appearances for his new club.

In his four seasons as a Chelsea player he was loaned out five times with spells at Everton, Bournemouth, Malaga and Vitesse Arnhem.

He never made a first team appearance for the Blues before he was sold to Newcastle in 2017 after a successful loan spell in the north east.

Ezgjan Alioski

Another player to move to the Saudi Professional League from the Premier League this summer was Macedonian international Ezgjan Alioski.

The versatile player left Leeds United to sign for four-time champions Al-Ahli after starring for his country at the Euros in the summer.

Prior to joining Leeds, Alioski had only played in Switzerland, where he ran out for Young Boys, Schaffhausen and Lugano.

He made 171 appearances for Leeds and was part of the side promoted to the Premier League in 2020, he has so far made nine appearances for Al-Ahli this season.

Romain Amalfitano

The brother of former West Bromwich Albion playmaker Morgan, Romain Amalfitano is best known in England for a two-year stay at Newcastle United during which he made just five first-team appearances.

He moved to Saudi Arabian side Al-Faisaly last year after six years back in his native France with Dijon, having cut his ties with Newcastle in 2014.

He has made 35 appearances for his new club and was a key part of their side that won the Saudi Cup last season for the first time in their history.

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Bafetimbi Gomis

French striker Bafetimbi Gomis has played for Saudi Arabia's most successful club, Al-Hilal, since the summer of 2018.

He joined the club from Galatasaray for £5.4million after previously playing for Saint-Etienne, Lyon, Swansea City and Marseille.

Gomis top scored as Al-Hilal won the Asian Champions League in his debut season and he has also won two league titles and the Saudi Cup in his time at the club.

In 135 appearances for Al-Hilal, he has scored a staggering 103 goals and also weighed in with 15 assists in those games.

Matheus Pereira

Gomis was joined at Al-Hilal by Brazilian winger Matheus Pereira this summer after the 25-year-old turned down interest from European clubs to sign from West Bromwich Albion for £16million.

Having starred for the Baggies last season despite their relegation from the Premier League, the likes of West Ham United and Leicester City had both been linked with him this summer.

However, the former Sporting Lisbon man instead opted for a move to the reigning Saudi champions.

He has so far failed to score in his first nine matches for the club but has been able to lay on six assists for his teammates already.

Luciano Vietto

The third Al-Hilal player on this list, Argentine forward Luciano Vietto also has Premier League experience having spent the 2018/19 season on loan at Fulham.

He scored just one goal in 22 appearances for the Cottagers as they were relegated from the top flight and he arrived in Saudi Arabia last summer after a season with Sporting Lisbon.

He has so far made 44 appearances for Al-Hilal and won the league alongside Gomis in 2020/21, scoring six goals along the way.

Ahmed Hegazy

Egyptian defender Ahmed Hegazy impressed during his time in England with West Brom, having originally joined the club on loan.

However, despite helping the club back into the Premier League in 2019/20, he joined Al-Ittihad on loan last summer before the move was made permanent in July this year.

He has yet to win a trophy with the club but has scored a respectable six goals from centre-back in his 38 appearances to date.

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