'The eyes of the world' are on Saudi, says Fabio Martins

By Sports Desk September 08, 2023

The huge spending of the Saudi Pro League has served as an extra motivation for players plying their trade in the Gulf state, says Fabio Martins.

Four Saudi clubs – Al Ittihad, Al Nassr, Al Hilal and Al Ahli – made huge moves over the course of the transfer window.

Karim Benzema, Neymar, N'Golo Kante, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Fabinho, Marcelo Brozovic, Riyad Mahrez, Franck Kessie and Ruben Neves were among the big names to join Cristiano Ronaldo in Saudi Arabia.

Speaking at the Thinking Football Summit, Martins, a Portuguese winger who first played in Saudi Arabia in 2020 and now plays for Al Khaleej, believes the eyes of the world are now on the Saudi Pro League, and that is only an extra motivation for players who are able to go up against superstar names.

"It's impossible to not be excited to play against Cristiano, Neymar, Benzema, Firmino, Mane, a lot of stars that arrived, and they came with a lot of talent, a lot of quality, but they bring the visibility to the world," Martins told Stats Perform.

"Because I think I'm not afraid to say that the league is in top three or four of visibility because every person is speaking about this.

"Now, every person is excited to see what will happen here in Saudi. So all players here are excited too, are motivated to do the things well because all of us know that the eyes of the world are here right now."

Asked specifically about the impact Ronaldo has had since he joined Al Nassr last season, Martins said: "Oh, for sure, huge impact. He brings quality. He brings the visibility because for Cristiano to arrive in a country like Saudi Arabia, it brings the visibility, and like it or not, the professionalism is growing with Cristiano and now with the arrival of the other big players.

"I believe that is good for everyone here. I believe that it is good for the Saudi football. And I believe that the league and the country have potential to grow step by step for sure.

"Last year, when Cristiano arrives I was very happy because I never thought that I would be able to play against Cristiano, to speak with Cristiano. I was lucky because he gave me his shirt.

"We were there speaking like five or ten minutes about the country, about the things here in Saudi. So, we are lucky the people who are that are here are lucky to play against such big players because from Portugal we have now here Ruben Neves too, Otavio, Jota for example.

"So it's very special to play against these kinds of players and of course we are motivated to do the things."

Related items

  • Dele Alli ‘overwhelmed’ by support after revealing mental health struggles Dele Alli ‘overwhelmed’ by support after revealing mental health struggles

    Everton forward Dele Alli admits he was “overwhelmed” by the response to his emotional interview in which he confronted mental health issues relating to his troubled childhood.

    Last summer the 28-year-old revealed he had been sexually abused as a six-year-old and fell into selling drugs aged just eight, leading to psychological problems later in life. He also opened up about a sleeping pill addiction which led to a stay at a rehab clinic.

    “When I did the interview I said if I helped one person that’s all I needed,” Alli, speaking publicly for the first time since that interview, told Monday Night Football on Sky Sports.

    “I had to do it for my own reasons, but if it helped one person that is all I wanted from it and the reaction and support I got was definitely overwhelming.

    “But it was amazing to see how many people it did help and I’m definitely very proud of it.”

    Alli said going public with his problems was part of a process that has enabled him to learn important lessons about himself, which have in turn helped him through a testing period of injury.

    He has not played since a loan spell at Besiktas was cut short in February last year due to a hip problem and a groin issue has delayed his return to the Everton squad.

    “When I did the interview I said it was the best I had felt at that time, coming out of rehab and getting back ready for playing,” he added.

    “I’ve had to learn what patience is and it’s been a long journey with the injury, a lot of ups and downs, but it is something I’ve had to learn.

    View this post on Instagram

    A post shared by Dele (@dele)

    “If you had asked me before, injuries would have been right at the top of my list to mentally overcome. Before this injury the longest one was eight weeks, which felt like forever.

    “If I hadn’t gone through that process in the summer it would have been so difficult for me to go through this for over a year now.

    “It is just an injury and hopefully one I’m getting to the end of. The pain of the injury is something I can really channel and help motivate me.

    “I really had to learn what patience is, but it has made me hungrier to get back in.”

  • Saudi FA and PFA criticise whip attack on Al Ittihad forward at Super Cup Saudi FA and PFA criticise whip attack on Al Ittihad forward at Super Cup

    The whipping of a player by a spectator after the Saudi Arabian Super Cup final has been condemned by the country’s football federation and players’ union.

    Al Ittihad’s Morocco forward Abderrazak Hamdallah was struck by the spectator at the end of the match in which Al Ittihad lost to Al Hilal in Abu Dhabi last Thursday.

    “The Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) and Football Players Association of Saudi Arabia (PFA) are shocked with the disgraceful scenes involving a physical attack by an individual spectator on a member of the team from Al-Ittihad Club at the end of the Diriyah Saudi Super Cup final in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE),” a joint statement said.

    “Like all other AFC and wider FIFA member associations, the priority of SAFF is to preserve the safety and enjoyment for everyone who loves watching and playing the game.

    “Football in Saudi Arabia is a family game and thankfully, fan disorder is extremely rare. It’s why the actions of this so called ‘fan’ go against all that Saudi football represents and we completely condemn the incident.

    “There will be a thorough review of the spectator code of conduct. The review will ensure updated rules and regulations are put in place to swiftly and effectively impose suitable penalties to help avoid any repeat of such incidents.”

    The governing bodies said that even though the match took place outside Saudi Arabia, they “stand united in their commitment to prioritise safety and well-being at stadiums and will keep implementing comprehensive measures to maintain a secure environment for everyone involved in the game”.

  • Championship run-in: Southampton join top three in race for automatic promotion Championship run-in: Southampton join top three in race for automatic promotion

    The battle for automatic promotion to the Premier League took a series of fresh twists over the weekend as the contenders endured differing fortunes.

    Leaders Ipswich, second-placed Leicester and Leeds in third are separated by just two points with the Foxes having played a game fewer, while Southampton, who have two matches in hand on both the Tractor Boys and United, lie six points further back.

    Here, the PA news agency takes a look at the remaining weeks of an increasingly tense Championship run-in.

    Ipswich (1st, played 43, 89 points, +32 goal difference)

    Run-in: Hull (a), Coventry (a), Huddersfield (h).

    Ipswich’s unlikely tilt at back-to-back promotions has hit the buffers in recent weeks after a remarkable run of nine wins in 10 Championship outings was brought to an end by derby rivals Norwich.

    A 1-0 defeat at Carrow Road on April 6 has been followed by home draws with Watford and Middlesbrough and Town must rediscover the form which earned manager Kieran McKenna the accolade of Championship Manager of the Season on Sunday evening if they are to reach the top flight.

    However, all three of their remaining opponents still have something to play for with Hull and Coventry on the fringes of the play-off race and Huddersfield battling desperately to avoid the drop.

    Leicester (2nd, played 42, 88 points, +41 goal difference)

    Run-in: West Brom (h), Southampton (h), Preston (a), Blackburn (h).

    Once seemingly certain to return to the top flight after a single season in the wilderness – Enzo Maresca’s side were 17 points clear of Leeds – Leicester have suffered a crisis of confidence just at the wrong time.

    A 2-1 home defeat by Middlesbrough on February 17 launched a run of 10 league games culminating in Friday night’s 1-0 reverse at Plymouth which has seen them lose six times and collect just 10 of the 30 points available.

    Their fate, however, remains in their own hands and with three of their last four fixtures taking place at the King Power Stadium – perhaps the most significant of them Saints’ visit next week – they will hope they can make home advantage count.

    Leeds (3rd, played 43, 87 points, +42 goal difference)

    Run-in: Middlesbrough (a), QPR (a), Southampton (h).

    Like the two clubs immediately above them in the table, Leeds have suffered a wobble at the most inopportune moment.

    The 2-1 defeat at Coventry on April 6 was their first in the league since the turn of the year and having seen Sunderland leave Elland Road with a point three days later, Daniel Farke’s men lost on home soil for the first time this season on Saturday when Sammie Szmodics fired Blackburn to victory in West Yorkshire.

    Monday’s trip to Middlesbrough is followed by another away fixture at QPR before Southampton head north for a final-day clash which could have a major say in the promotion race.

    Southampton (played 41, 81 points, +27 goal difference)

    Run-in: Preston (h), Cardiff (a), Leicester (a), Stoke (h), Leeds (a).

    Southampton’s bad patch arrived in February, when they lost to Bristol City, Hull and Millwall either side of a 2-0 success at West Brom in the space of 12 days.

    A run of four wins and only one defeat in their last seven games, including Saturday’s last-gasp 3-2 victory over Watford, has edged them back into the hunt, but points on the board in the latter stages of a season are precious and Saints are playing catch-up.

    Russell Martin’s men face difficult trips to Leicester and Leeds, but their cause will be forlorn if they slip up in theoretically less taxing encounters with Preston, Cardiff and Stoke.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.