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Ex-Man City star Laporte on Saudi move: Many players unhappy

Al Nassr defender Aymeric Laporte has said many players like him that joined Saudi Pro League last summer clubs are “dissatisfied,” citing working conditions and broken promises.

The Spain international joined Al Nassr in a €27.5 million ($30m) transfer from Manchester City in August, becoming a teammate of Cristiano Ronaldo.

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Laporte’s comments after a Jordan Henderson ended his six-month stay at Al Ettifaq to join Ajax on Thursday, with sources telling ESPN that Al Ittihad forward Karim Benzema is also exploring his options in the January transfer window after six underwhelming months in the Saudi Pro League.

“It’s a big change compared to Europe, but in the end it’s all adaptation,” Laporte told Spanish newspaper Diario AS. “They haven’t made it easy for us. In fact, there are many players that are dissatisfied. They do look after us but not enough for my liking. That is to say, in Europe they pay you a good salary, but they take better care of you.

“I speak from my own experience and I don’t know what the experience of others is like. For my part, what I have seen is that they try to bring you in, but then there is the day-to-day life and that is different.”

Laporte, who won five Premier League titles at City as well as the treble last season, said the working culture in Saudi Arabia is unlike that in Europe.

“The ultimatum what you give them doesn’t matter to them,” Laporte said. “I mean, they’re really going about their business. You negotiate something and then they don’t accept it after you have signed it. … It’s a bit of a bummer that I don’t know [would happen] if in Europe. Of course, the same thing that they take away from you in that respect, they compensate in other ways.”

Ronaldo left Manchester United by mutual consent and moved to Al Nassr in December 2022, with a host of other players since following in his footsteps.

“Let’s be honest, many of us have also come here not only for football,” Laporte said. “Many of us are happy with that [financial gain], but I am also looking for something beyond that is not the economic part. In terms of quality of life, I expected something different because in the end, here you spend three hours a day in the car. In Riyadh, you spend a lot of time in the car because of the traffic.”

“We are working on it every day, let’s just say negotiating, to see if it improves a little because this is something new for them too,” he added. “Having European players that already have a long career. Maybe they are not used to this and have to adapt to have a little more seriousness.”

When asked if he has considered leaving, Laporte said: “At the moment, I haven’t thought about it, but if I’m disappointed in such a short time, you wonder what to do.

“That moment has not yet arrived, but in the future it could be if this dynamic continues.”

However, Laporte’s Al Nassr teammate Sadio Mané has defended the Saudi Pro League and said his profile hasn’t dipped since making the move from Bayern Munich last summer.

“That’s what you think because I’m not in Europe,” Mané told reporters on Friday when asked if he receives lesser attention playing in Saudi Arabia.

“This is sad for you guys. Because, for you guys, if you don’t play in Europe, it doesn’t matter. I’m not around as a football player.”

“Fortunately, I can say the Saudi league is a very good league, and watched by everybody in the world, so, for me, as long as I’m doing my best and I’m enjoying myself every single minute, that’s more important.

“The rest, for me, doesn’t matter.”

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