It’s the league that’s arguably grabbed the most attention from football fans across the globe this summer. We look ahead to the Saudi Pro League 2023-24 campaign by assessing the strength of four leading contenders for the title.

When Cristiano Ronaldo expressed his belief that the Saudi Pro League could become one of the top five leagues in world football across the next decade – such is their serious ambition – he was roundly mocked.

Now, following a summer of transfer activity that has seen some high-profile players exchange the major European leagues for Saudi Arabia’s alternative, Ronaldo’s prediction is taking a few steps closer to possibly coming true.

The 2023-24 campaign will be the 16th Saudi Pro League season since it began in 2008. For the first time, there will be 18 teams participating in the Saudi top flight, two more than last season and six more than in the inaugural 2008-09 campaign.

Since then, we’ve seen six different teams crowned as champions – Al-Hilal (seven times), Al-Nassr (three), Al-Ittihad (two) and one win apiece by Al-Shabab, Al-Fateh and Al-Ahli. The main competition in the league revolves around clubs from the two major cities: the capital Riyadh (Al-Hilal, Al-Nassr & Al-Shabab) and second city Jeddah (Al-Ittihad & Al-Ahli). Only once has a team from outside these two major cities won the Pro League title (Al-Fateh from Al-Ahsa in the Eastern province in 2012-13).

It’s widely considered that four teams will be fighting it out for the 2023-24 title. We look across the need-to-know information surrounding the quartet, here.


The reigning Saudi Pro League champions will be looking to seal back-to-back titles under the stewardship of former Wolves and Tottenham boss Nuno Espirito Santo. This was their first title since the inaugural Saudi Pro League in 2008-09, with the 13-year gap the longest between two league titles in this era of Saudi top flight football.

Overall, in Saudi top flight history, the Jeddah-based Al-Ittihad side have won nine league titles, only behind Al-Hilal’s 18. They are also one of only two Saudi clubs to have been crowned champions of Asia in the Asian Champions League, winning consecutive titles in 2004 and 2005.

Since a disastrous season in 2018-19, where they only avoided relegation with a late run of form, Al-Ittihad have regrouped and are now the champions of Saudi Arabia once again – their 2022-23 title victory saw them surpass Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr by five points in a tightly-contested campaign. Their 72-point total was a competition record, as was their tally of 22 wins and 19 clean sheets in 2022-23. Just three of their 13 goals conceded came in home matches – yet another record from an outstanding season.

Saudi Pro League 2022-23 Table

The defence should be even better protected this season, with the arrival of N’Golo Kante from Chelsea and Fabinho from Liverpool this summer. But the highest profile signing made by the club – and arguably the entire league – was that of Real Madrid legend and 2022 Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema. The second-highest scorer in Real Madrid history (354 in all competitions) will come up against the first place goalscorer this season, with Cristiano Ronaldo the only man to net more for the Spanish giants (450). They’ve also added Jota from Scottish Premiership champions Celtic. The Portuguese forward was one of only three players to create 100+ chances from open play across his two top-flight league seasons in Scotland, while he also provided the second-most assists (21).

These players are additions to last season’s top goalscorer Abdul Razaq Hamdallah (21 goals), who has finished as top scorer in three of the last five seasons in the Pro League. Hamdallah also holds the record for the most goals in a single Pro League season, scoring 34 times with Al-Nassr in the 2018-19 season.


Historically, Al-Hilal are the juggernaut of Saudi and, arguably, Asian football, although Al-Ittihad have threatened that dominance in the last year. They are the third-highest ranked Asian club in the Opta Power Rankings at the time of writing, behind their Saudi rivals and 2022-23 title winners, with both trailing Iranian side Persepolis.

Al-Hilal have won a total of 18 Saudi League titles, seven of which have been in the Pro League era (no other team has won the Pro League more than three times) and they’ve finished runners-up on no fewer than 15 occasions. The Saudi giants are the only team to win a hat-trick of league titles in the Pro League era, sealing three consecutive championships between 2019-20 and 2021-22. Not only this, but they are also the only club to win the Asian Champions League on four different occasions.

Unsurprisingly, considering the above, Al-Hilal have won the most games (275) and scored the most goals (854) of all teams in the Saudi Pro League era since 2008-09.

Most Successful Saudi Clubs

By Al-Hilal’s high standards, finishing third in the table last season was disappointing – equalling their lowest league finish in the Pro League era. However, they’ve strengthened significantly over the summer, despite failing with their audacious attempts to lure Kylian Mbappé and Roma coach José Mourinho to the club.

They’ve signed key players in defence and midfield, including Wolves and Portugal star Rúben Neves as well as midfield giant Sergej Milinković-Savić from Lazio. Across the Serbian’s seven-season career in the Italian capital, he was one of just three midfielders to contribute 100+ goals in Serie A with his 57 goals and 45 assists – a welcome addition to the Al-Hilal squad. He’s joined by defender Kalidou Koulibaly from Chelsea and exciting winger Malcom from Zenit St. Petersburg. The Brazilian was the top scorer in the Russian Premier League last season with 23 goals, while his 30 goal involvements (with an additional seven assists) were another league-high tally.

Al-Hilal also have some of the best of Saudi players too, including the likes of Salman Al-Faraj and Salim Al-Dawsary – scorer of the winning goal against Argentina in the 2022 World Cup – and goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayoof, who has kept 78 clean sheets in the Pro League – an all-time competition record.


Al-Nassr (or now commonly known as Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr) will hope to go one better in 2023-24 after finishing as runners-up in the Saudi Pro League last season.

Their Portuguese star is already breaking records in the country – becoming the first player to score as many as eight goals in his first five Saudi Pro League appearances, while also becoming the quickest player to net two hat-tricks (five games). In total, he’s scored 14 goals in the Pro League since joining in January 2023, more than any other player in the same period.

Cristiano Ronaldo Goals Al-Nassr

Al-Nassr have won nine league titles in total (level with Al-Ittihad), three of which have been in the Pro League era.  Along with local rivals Al-Hilal (seven), they are the only team to win the Pro League more than twice (three times – 2013-14, 2014-15 & 2018-19).

Al-Nassr have brought in reinforcements to help with their title push this season. Adding to the firepower Ronaldo provides, former Liverpool and Bayern Munich forward Sadio Mané has been brought in to bolster the attack. Midfield reinforcements have arrived in the shape of UEFA Champions League finalist Marcelo Brozović from Inter Milan and Seko Fofana from Lens – who made our Ligue 1 Team of the Season in 2022-23 – have also been recruited. Alex Telles is another player to arrive at the club this summer, linking up with Ronaldo again following a move from Manchester United.

The heated Riyadh derby against Al-Hilal potentially looks even more spicy for the upcoming season.


Al-Ahli are on the way back. They were sensationally relegated from the Pro League for the first time in their history in 2021-22. Last season saw them win the first division title to earn a place back in the top flight for 2023-24 and they’ve wasted little time this season building a squad that can challenge with the top sides from last campaign.

Al-Ahli won their only Pro League title to date in the 2015-16 season and are one of only three teams to go through an entire Pro League season without a single defeat, alongside Al-Hilal in 2010-11 and Al-Shabab in 2011-12. The bad news for Al-Ahli was that they are the only one of those three that didn’t win the title in their undefeated season. They also still hold the record for the longest unbeaten streak in the history of the Pro League, with 51 consecutive games undefeated between 2014 and 2016. 

Al-Ahli’s summer business has seen them raid the English Premier League for some of their stars. The quartet of treble-winning forward Riyad Mahrez from Manchester City, Liverpool fan-favourite Roberto Firmino, Newcastle winger Allan Saint-Maximin and 2021 UEFA Champions League winner Édouard Mendy from Chelsea have all arrived. They’ve also been joined by Franck Kessié from Barcelona, this week.

Edouard Mendy Al Ahli

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