Should Sorare cover Saudi Arabia?
The Saudis are not the first to attempt to use huge salaries to attract players away from Europe’s top five leagues, but their efforts appear to be on a new scale. Similar to how the Chinese Super League (and Japan, and the MLS) made a significant impact in the past by offering massive transfer fees and salaries, Saudi Arabia is currently enticing prominent European players to consider relocating to the East for a final payday. Trendsetter was the transfer of Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo to Al Nassr in December 2022.
CR7 is not the only one that heard the call of Alibaba's cave.
One of the latest players to move to the desert is the only 26-year-old Ruben Neves, captain of the Wolves. With reports suggesting Barcelona's interest in signing Neves, Al Hilal's acquisition of the player is undoubtedly a significant victory for both the club and the league as a whole. However, the substantial transfer fee (40m) is quite surprising, particularly considering that the Portugal international has just one year remaining on his contract.
French striker Karim Benzema already joined Al-Ittihad. Huge salaries are obviously a big part of the attraction, but, for some like Benzema, religion is playing a part too. Two of Islam's holiest cities are situated in Saudi Arabia: Mecca and Medina, which are revered by over 1 billion Muslims.
Al-Ittihad also lured Kanté to their roster, he joins on a free after his contract expired at Chelsea. Other names that are currently being linked are Hakim Ziyech, Kalidou Koulibaly, Edouard Mendy, Bernardo Silva, Carvalho, Luka Modric, Wilfried Zaha, Thomas Partey, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Firmino, and much more... Romelu Lukaku and Lewandowski reportedly rejected the offers.
Chelsea! We've found the blue elephant in the room.
In the previous season, Chelsea's expenditure on new players reached an astounding sum of approximately 600 million. However, despite this substantial investment and the arrival of numerous new talents, the team's performance thus far pales in comparison to the formidable side witnessed in previous seasons. A complete lack of vision and leadership. Enter the Saudis with their unlimited oil money, bailing Chelsea out of its predicament and Financial FairPlay problems.
This of course has a huge impact on us Sorare players as the Saudi Professional League is not licenced by Sorare at this time. It is covered by Opta which is already a huge step. We've been seeing a shift from: "Wen rewards?" to "Wen Prem?" to "When Saudi?" However, not everything is rainbows and butterflies. In the Sorare community, there are people on both sides of the fence. People who are against the addition to Sorare and other Sorare managers who can't wait for the league to be included.
I've found two known Sorare managers and content creators who are outspoken on the subject. Here is what they had to say:
Since I am on Sorare (around 2 years now) there were always some rumors and questions about the Saudi league and whether it should be covered. Although since the transfer of Ronaldo and now recently the crazy Saudi summer transfer market, more and more voices on social media asking for it, and of course other voices are against it. I don't own any Ronaldo, Koulibaly, or Benzema cards, but I do own some cards who are already been there for more than a year. I honestly think it should be covered, here is why. Imagine Greece was a very rich country (sorry Greek readers, just to make an example) and they start to sign a lot of football stars, the league would start to perform better on a European level and we would all agree very fast the Greek league should be covered. I completely understand if you play K-or J-league some extra competition arrives in Asia on Sorare. And from that point of view, you would certainly not be interested in having the Saudi league covered. Now there are only 3 leagues covered in Asia (2 licensed and 1 covered (China)), would it really be that bad to have a 4th league covered? It's the Sorare competition with the least amount of leagues covered already. I am always mentioning the word 'covered', not 'licensed', meaning they would just cover the league so you can use the cards but not sign/licence teams and have their cards on the platform. I would rather not see that happening. The platform is still slowly recovering from the Premier League arrival in January, let's not take that risk yet, and just cover the league for now. Just having the league covered, means you should not be afraid anymore if any of those rumors start about a player you spend a big bag of Ethereum. You would be able to still use the cards on the platform and let's be honest and it can happen to any player by now. Could we have the same discussion about Greece, Serbia, Sweden, Qatar, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Australia? Off course we can, some should be considered in my opinion anyway, at least to have them covered. (Sorare should think about it this longterm, cause there will be always a league that starts to be more important and they should be ready if that happens). What would happen? Well some players would become much more valuable if they play for the top teams in those leagues. If they only cover it, you cant win those topplayers and on the longterm thats not perfect, especially the Ronaldo, Benzema cards. But most of all, your cards keep having utility and isn't that why we are on the platform, to play the game, win cards, trade, and enjoy the platform and the community? So WenSaudi.
On the other side of the fence, we have TheScottischWhale, aka McBrideAce, explaining the arguments against the addition of the league. Follow his Youtube and Twitter for some in-depth quality Sorare content!
Having read the arguments for coverage there are also significant arguments against. China is a good example. If you look up the scores of Oscar he is the biggest cheat code around and thankfully has no cards. Even Romulo was the top scorer on the platform for a good while. The potential issue is imbalance. For me if the Saudi league comes licensing is essential. Having a big amount of Benzema, Ziyech, Kante cards that can win the top euro stars in global but don’t actually produce any prizes could be quite bad. The potential issue surrounds mainly the quality imbalance. Only 4 clubs are state owned and have significant funds. This means those clubs have a huge advantage on the rest of the league. This of course can happen in other leagues too but the scoring profile of those cards could potentially be quite game breaking Sorare really needs to tread with caution here. If Saudi league coverage was to be added (I would currently be on the side of not adding it) then doing so without actually having the relevant cards helping prize pools could be a bit of a disaster. Leagues which aren’t licensed also don’t have the benefit of other fun features, like collections When cards aren’t minted and score huge, owners tend to hold and prices become very high. Potentially out of reach for the standard user. And then if those cards can’t be won either then the only effect is that they are making it harder for the cards which are being minted to win. For non licensed leagues other key fun features like collections aren’t available. If sorare are considering adding a league like this I think they should first allow some time with the players being there who have transferred and analyse the scoring profile compared to other leagues before making the necessary changes they believe are in the best interests of the platform.