Saudi Pro League’s Francophone appeal: Al Hilal legend Bafetimbi Gomis sets the benchmark in Saudi Arabia
The links between Saudi Pro League and the French-speaking world continue to strengthen.
There is little doubt that Al Hilal legend Bafetimbi Gomis has set an extremely high benchmark for all future imports – especially attacking players.
The 37-year-old is back in Europe with Galatasaray after four memorable years in The Kingdom and it is fair to say he will be missed by the Saudi game for some time to come, given what he achieved.
With 81 goals from 106 league appearances, two top-flight titles, one King’s Cup, one Saudi Super Cup and two AFC Champions League successes to his name, Gomis has an equally impressive collection of individual accolades.
It will take some time for anyone to get close to achieving what the former Lyon, Marseille and Saint-Etienne man did, but his Al Hilal replacement Moussa Marega – born in Les Ulis – has made a meaningful start with 13 goals from 39 top-flight games after joining from Porto in 2021.
Saudi Arabia were one of the surprise packages of the FIFA 2022 World Cup in Qatar and the Green Falcons, led by French boss Herve Renard, pulled off an historic group-stage victory over eventual winners Argentina.
Rudi Garcia is another reputable French tactician who is now Cristiano Ronaldo’s boss at one of the most talked about clubs in the global game at present: Al Nassr.
The Riyadh giants have assembled a strong supporting cast for the Portugal superstar, which includes Ivory Coast international left-back Ghislain Konan who joined from Reims. Colleagues Luiz Gustavo and Alvaro Gonzalez count Marseille among their former clubs.
French speakers will also be pleasantly surprised to find that Ettifaq are something of a haven for talents plucked from France, or at least made their names in the country, with Patrice Carteron overseeing a solid squad which boasts the likes of Marcel Tisserand, Youssoufou Niakate and Naim Sliti.
Al Shabab’s Poland international Grzegorz Krychowiak is another Saudi Pro League gem to have made his name in France with Bordeaux, Reims and later Paris Saint-Germain after a stint with Sevilla, which garnered back-to-back UEFA Europa League titles.
The White Lion also count on the goal-scoring prowess of Gabon international Aaron Boupendza who is still only 26 and has enjoyed prolific spells with Pau FC and Hatayspor in Turkey already in his career.
There are also a number of other star names sprinkled around the rest of the clubs with Dijon favourite Julio Tavares now with Al Raed, Tristan Dingome is Al Fateh’s latest signing, Al Wehda boast Jean-David Beauguel and Morocco winger Faycal Fajr, while there is also Al Khaleej’s Andre Biyogo Poko, and Al Batin’s Thibault Peyre.
This trend will likely keep growing if Roshn Saudi League continues to be a platform which sees talent shaped by the Francophone world thrive.