Gus Poyet speaks out on Saudi saga that's "way over" what happened in China

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Gus Poyet speaks out on Saudi saga that
Gus Poyet speaks out on Saudi saga that's "way over" what happened in China

Gus Poyet knows a thing or two about a short-term football revolution.

The former Chelsea and Tottenham player's managerial career took him to China in 2016, where he spent a year in charge at Super League side Shanghai Shenhua. His own stint in the Far East proved a mixed one, and yet, the goings on around him still linger long in the memory.

For a man who has plied his trade with 16 different club or national sides, whether it be as an accomplished attacking midfielder or a boss at the helm, it's perhaps intriguing as to why. Poyet, 55, witnessed first hand a notion that threatened to change the face of football - with the league offering extortionate wages as players in their prime moved across from Europe.

Hulk headed to Shanghai Port for £50million, whilst Chelsea star Oscar packed his bags to join the same club on £400,000-a-week-wages. More stars followed, but the temporary uprise proved just that. So Poyet, now far removed from such surreal transfer madness in his role as manager of Greece, is better placed than most to assess the current financial assault on world football's hierarchy from Saudi Arabia.

“When Ronaldo went there we all thought, ok, he’s Ronaldo, he’s unique. One of the best players in history," said Poyet, speaking exclusively to Mirror Football on behalf on “But what’s happening in Saudi Arabia this season is crazy, just crazy."

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And unlike what he witnessed in 2016-17, he doesn't necessarily envisage a flash in the pan: "People are trying to compare it with China," he continues. "Well I was in China, at that time (of big spending), and I don’t think you can compare it. This is way, way, over that.

Gus Poyet speaks out on Saudi saga that's "way over" what happened in ChinaGus Poyet has had his say on the Saudi revolution (BBC Sport)

“Now where is this all going to go in Saudi Arabia? Is it going to be maintainable for the next 10 years, forever? Or will it be ‘boom’ for two or three years then that’s it? And that’s the situation that young players need to think about.

“The experienced ones, ok, they can go there for a few more playing years. It’s a different situation, a different decision. Take Benzema for example, he’s been at Real Madrid for 15 years and he’s won everything and is no longer playing in the national team. He’s gone at the end of his career.”

However, the former Uruguayan international stopped short of criticising players for taking the money, so to speak. It's an opportunity he never had in his own distinguished playing stint, and one he argues few can understand until presented with such offers themselves.

“You need to be in the shoes of the player (to understand) and I’ll explain why," he said. "I remember when Oscar left Chelsea and went to China, and everyone was saying he’s too young. But he’s still in China now. So you need to put yourself in his situation. What was his aim? What was the need for that career environment?"

Indeed, not all those heading to Saudi from British shores can be considered players in their twilight years. And with speculation over further departures escalating by the day, Poyet has concerns about the league where he made his name, first as a goalscoring midfielder in London and then as manager of Sunderland, leading them to the League Cup final in his maiden season as well as a great escape from relegation.

“I think it’s affecting everybody. It’s affecting the Premier League even if we don’t want to say it," he warned. “Kante at Chelsea. When he went from Leicester I said that, at that time, he was the best defensive midfield player in the world. I know he was injured for a long time last year but it’s still a strange one to take.

“We don’t know how much money that they are going to offer more Premier League players. For the fans it’s unfair. We’ve all been used to the Premier League being the best.”

Fraser Watson

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