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Football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo plays for Al-Nassr FC in the Saudi Pro League

Photo: Yasser Bakhsh / Getty Images

Since Saudi Arabia and its sovereign wealth fund have been shaking up the football transfer market and luring stars like Ronaldo or Neymar into the domestic league, rumours have not stopped that Saudi clubs could soon play in the European Champions League.

UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin has now rejected such reports. "Only European clubs can participate in the Champions League, the Europa League or the Europa Conference League," said the 55-year-old president of the European Football Union in response to a question from the French sports newspaper L'Équipe. This Thursday, the draw for the group stage will take place in Monaco.

Despite the upgrading of the financially strong Saudi league, Čeferin sees no threat to European football. "We had a similar approach from China, which bought players at the end of their careers and offered them a lot of money. As a result, Chinese football did not develop after that and did not qualify for the World Cup," Čeferin explained.

Ambitious players don't go to the desert, according to Čeferin

This summer, a number of stars such as Neymar and Sadio Mané have moved to Saudi Arabia for a lot of money, which Čeferin is critical of: "That's not the right way, they should work on the training of players and coaches, but that's not my problem."

According to Čeferin, only players at the end of their careers and those who are not ambitious enough are drawn to the desert: "As far as I know, Mbappé and Haaland don't dream of Saudi Arabia," he said, referring to superstars Kylian Mbappé and Erling Haaland playing in Europe. "We'll see what happens, but I don't think for a second that this could jeopardize our competitions."

vgl/dpa