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Saudi league ‘completely changed the market’: Guardiola

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said on Saturday that the Saudi Pro League had “completely changed the market” and he expects more and more high-profile players to move there.

City winger Riyad Mahrez this week became just the latest big name to move to Saudi football, following in the footsteps of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and numerous others from Europe’s top leagues.

Algerian international Mahrez joined Al-Ahli for a fee understood to be worth up to £30 million ($38.6 million).

Bayern Munich’s Sadio Mane on Saturday looked poised to join the exodus.

“The Saudi league completely changed the market,” Guardiola said in Seoul on the eve of City’s friendly with Atletico Madrid.

“A year ago when Cristiano Ronaldo was the first player, no one could imagine how many top, top quality, extraordinary players were going to play in the Saudi league.

“In the future, it will happen more and more.”

Guardiola said that he had a “special relationship” with Mahrez, even though the attacker fell from favour towards the end of his time at the English and European champions.

“He’s one of the players I’ve seen in my career I enjoyed the most.

“(He was) an important figure for the success we had during the five or six years together.”

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