2022/23 Roshn Saudi League boasts a thrilling title race, superstar additions, homegrown heroes and competition throughout
We’re not even halfway through the 2022/23 edition of Roshn Saudi League, but it might just be the most seismic yet.
The bombshell signing of megastar Cristiano Ronaldo by Al Nassr has captured the attention of the world though there had been a rising level of interest and intrigue in the country’s top football league before the arrival of the multiple Ballon d’Or winner.
We take a brief look at some of the major talking points of the 22/23 season so far:
SAUDI SUCCESS FUELS GLOBAL INTEREST
Indeed, weeks before Ronaldo’s arrival in Riyadh, the world had stepped up and taken notice.
Not of the many internationals that call Saudi Arabia home, but of its domestic players who stunned global audiences with their ‘come-from-behind’ win against eventual World Cup 2022 champions Argentina.
With all of Saudi Arabia’s 26-man squad plying their trade in the Kingdom, there was renewed interest in the strength of the domestic league, underscored by their rousing victory against their illustrious opponents, including the likes of Lionel Messi, Angel Di Maria and Lautaro Martinez.
Salem Al Dawsari has long been touted as the best Asia-based player and made a historic La Liga appearance when on loan at Villarreal in 2018, but an emerging class of talented young players, namely Firas Al Buraikan, Saud Abdulhamid and Hassan Tambakti, have proved they have the quality to mix it with those in the top European leagues.
While there has always been a healthy stream of overseas players into Roshn Saudi League, this year feels more pronounced than most.
Among the usual hidden gems picked up from South America or elsewhere in Europe have been a smattering of well-known individuals plucked from top leagues and clubs.
Ronaldo will undoubtedly attract the attention of football fans, but Al Nassr also picked up seasoned Ivory Coast international Ghislain Konan, celebrated goalkeeper David Ospina and defender Alvaro Gonzalez from Reims, Napoli and Olympique Marseille respectively. Al Ittihad secured the signing of Helder Costa from Premier League side Leeds, while Al Shabab completed the loan signing of Poland international, and former PSG and Sevilla star, Grzegorz Krychowiak.
TIGHT RACE AT THE TOP
As we race towards the half-way stage of the season, there are several teams all in close proximity at the top of the table.
Holders Al Hilal have won the last three championships on offer. Al Nassr will hope CR7’s arrival will boost them to a first league title in four seasons.
Al Shabab, who led for much of the early exchanges this campaign, have not won the league title since 2011/12 and will be keen to put an end to that record with a strong second half of the campaign.
Al Ittihad have not lifted the title since 2008/09, closing a glittering chapter that lasted throughout the 1990s and 2000s. They came agonisingly close last season, finishing just two points behind Al Hilal.
CONTENDERS STAKE THEIR CLAIM, CLOSE AT THE BOTTOM
Outside of the ‘Big Four’, Al Taawoun is in touch with the leaders. The 2019 King’s Cup winners boast a stellar record away from home and prevailed in the Al Qassim Derby, against rivals Al Raed.
Elsewhere, Abha have reacted strongly to October’s appointment of Roel Coumans, Damac are keen to emulate their fifth-place finish under manager Kresimir Rezic and Al Fateh are fuelled by Saudi Arabia striker Al Buraikan’s goals.
Al Tai and Ettifaq boast numerous talented players, Al Raed recently drew 1-1 with Al Hilal and Al Fayha’s resurgence since the restart caused Vuk Rasovic to win December’s Manager of the Month Award.
Al Batin have been bolstered by several January additions. Al Wehda, Al Khaleej and Al Adalah have all recorded some eye-catching wins.
With the world watching, it promises to be an excellent second half of the season.