“The transfer market is very difficult. There are two weeks left and absolutely everything can happen. Two or three players who have started the game, an offer worth millions to them can come from somewhere, and they leave before the end of the window. You have to accept it.”
That was Diego Simeone speaking to DAZN post-match after his Atlético Madrid side drew 0-0 against Real Betis on a sweltering Sunday night in Seville. Simeone gets nervous before each summer transfer window shuts, and this year is no exception — especially as Saudi Pro League clubs have reshaped the European market over the course of 2023.
Several of Simeone’s players have been tenuously linked with a move to the Middle East. Rumors about Yannick Carrasco moving there haven't fully subsided, and another of El Cholo’s key players has reportedly pored over the idea of playing in Saudi Arabia.
EXCL: Al Ahli submit formal €32m bid to Atlético Madrid for Rodrigo de Paul — as talks are moving forward— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) August 21, 2023
Contract proposal also sent to player’s camp.
Negotiations on after talks revealed this morning. pic.twitter.com/c1fjy91JWv
That’s Rodrigo de Paul, the subject of interest from Saudi giants Al-Ahli, one of the four clubs operated by the country’s Public Investment Fund (an arm of the monarchy). Al-Ahli appointed Matthias Jaissle as its head coach this summer and have signed (takes deep breath) Merih Demiral, Roberto Firmino, Roger Ibañez, Franck Kessié, Riyad Mahrez, Edouard Mendy, and Allen Saint-Maximin as part of a €140 million spending binge.
But de Paul would have to be Al-Ahli’s most expensive outlay yet. De Paul finished last season with two goals and seven assists in LaLiga, yet his future at Atlético hasn’t exactly been secure. However, despite Al-Ahli sending in an official bid — not to mention an annual salary close to €15 million — the FIFA World Cup winner will reportedly reject the move and stay right where he is.
Rodrigo De Paul rechazó la oferta del fútbol árabe.— Gastón Edul (@gastonedul) August 21, 2023
Se queda en Europa.
De Paul joined Atlético from Udinese two years ago in a €35 million transfer, and he signed a contract to 2026. The Argentina star’s first season in Madrid was spotty, and rumors about his departure first gathered steam during his dreadful first half to the 2022/23 campaign.
But after the World Cup, de Paul looked much more like one of Atleti’s most expensive signings ever. He notched one goal and four assists in his final seven appearances last season, helping Los Rojiblancos finish third — only Antoine Griezmann had more goal-creating actions than de Paul’s 11 in LaLiga.
It would be a surprise if Atlético sold de Paul at a €3 million loss two summers after shelling out the dough to acquire him. Indeed, Marca on Monday reported that Atleti will not seriously consider selling de Paul unless Al-Ahli raise its offer significantly (“€80-90 million,” according to the Madrid-based daily). And de Paul himself has consistently stated in interviews his desire to soldier on in the Spanish capital.
However, things change very quickly in this sport, and de Paul is facing a critical season in his Atlético career. Supporters have never fully embraced him, and even though Simeone requested the player’s signing, he’s never really been sure where best to deploy his compatriot. De Paul’s form was patchy at best until the calendar turned to 2023, with murmurs that Italian clubs wanted to bring him back to Serie A. And finally, Atleti still need money from somewhere to sign the defensive midfielder Simeone wants, heavily rumored to be Tottenham’s Denmark international Pierre-Emile Højbjerg.
Sell Rodrigo de Paul — yes or no?
This poll is closed
Yes — Atlético need the money to sign the 5 that Simeone wants
No — de Paul emerged as a key player in the back half of last season