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When Saudi Comes they GO – Jota no longer on the wing

14 July 2023

We had Jota on the wing, he was a pleasure to watch from the stands. Celtic’s recruitment has been excellent over the past 2 seasons and the Portuguese winger was one of the stand out players alongside Kyogo and Carter Vickers.

One season on loan before he signed a permanent deal. Little did Celtic know then what his sell on value was when he put pen to paper in Glasgow.

When the Saudi offer came in, it was only going to end in one way and that was a flight to the middle east to sign on the dotted line. Financially everyone was a winner, the player and Celtic. As fans we will find another player to sing about.

The money from Saudi may bank roll Celtic’s model in the future (Kyogo and McGregor have already been tied to long term new deals) . The model of buy young, develop the player before selling high has been working over the years. Jota follows players like Dembele and Van Dyke out the exit door from Paradise to richer leagues.

I can’t take credit for research on this blog, that I have to give to James Montague author of The Billionaires Cub: The unstoppable rise of footballs super-rich owners.

James penned an informative article on Saudi Arabia for the excellent When Saturday Comes Magazine which covers football around the globe while retaining it’s fanzine roots and feel.

The Sovereign Wealth Fund of Saudi Arabia also known as the Public Investment Fund (PIF) bought 75% shares in four of the countries biggest clubs. Al Hilal, Al Ittihad (Who Jotta signed for alongside Benzima) , Al Nassr (Ronaldo) and Al Ahli.

The fund is worth an estimated £600 Billion + and it’s chairman is Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and was set up to diversify the economy away from oil. Football is just part of the plan. In recent times they have flexed their muscles in the Boxing ring and on the Golf Course.

Saudi money is thought to be behind the push to revolutionise FIFA’s Club World Cup into a global Champions League to rival UEFA’s version. Some even believe that such wealth could buy them a place in the CL. I’m sure they would love to see Saudi teams play alongside their EPL team Newcastle.

Montague writes “The country has undergone something of a cultural revolution. Young people are no longer separated by sex like they were. The hated religious police has been neutered. Woman can now drive and watch football matches in the stadium”

Stuff we have always taken for granted.

He also writes “At the same time Saudi Arabia has doubled down on political repression. Activists who have called for those reforms have been jailed, many simply tweeting about them, In 2022 Saudi Arabia executed 147 people, 81 in a single day”

The Saudi league is flourishing and is now able to attract the best players and managers in the World with the lure of vast amounts of money. When Saudi Comes! they go.

Read the full article in the August edition of WSC  (Issue 443) https://www.wsc.co.uk

Andrew Milne is Editor of More than 90 Minutes and host of the Celtic Soul Podcast