Which Saudi Pro League players are at EURO 2024?

The 2024 European Championship kicks off on June 14 as UEFA’s 24 best national teams take to the pitches of Germany to vie for continental glory. Italy are the reigning champions, having beaten England in the final at Wembley in the delayed 2021 tournament.

As well as the last finalists, France, Spain, Portugal and hosts Germany are among the favorites to lift the famous Henri Delaunay Trophy, which has been awarded to the winner since the competition’s inception in 1960.

This year, a significant number of those players competing for the continent’s top international prize are from the Saudi Pro League. In the last edition of the European Championship three years ago, no players involved were plying their trade in Saudi Arabia; this time, there are 14 – demonstrating the huge leap in quality that football in the Kingdom has taken recently.

Here, Al Arabiya English spotlights which players from the Saudi Pro League will be playing at EURO 2024.

Portugal – Cristiano Ronaldo (Al Nassr), Ruben Neves (Al Hilal)

Portugal initially had three Saudi-based players in its squad but Roberto Martinez was forced to replace Otavio after the Al Nassr playmaker suffered a muscle tear. A nation that is certainly expected to be challenging in the latter stages of the tournament, Portugal’s line will be led by the irrepressible Cristiano Ronaldo – fresh off winning the Saudi Pro League Golden Boot after scoring 35 goals for Al Nassr.

At international level, Ronaldo holds an impressive collection of men’s records including the highest number of appearances (206) and goals (128). He is the leading scorer in European Championship history having netted 14 goals between 2004-2020, also becoming the first player to play at five Euros. Ronaldo won the trophy as captain in 2016 and no player has played more minutes (2,153) or more matches (25) at the European Championship than Al Nassr’s No. 7.

Joining Ronaldo in the Seleção’s contingent from the Kingdom is Al Hilal midfielder Ruben Neves, who has excelled for the Saudi Pro League champions since arriving from English Premier League club Wolves last summer. Dead-ball specialist Neves scored seven goals and created 12 in a fruitful campaign in which only three Hilal players featured in more than the midfielder’s 48 games. With strong competition for midfield places, Neves isn’t guaranteed a spot in Portugal’s starting XI but is certain to play some role in the tournament.

France – N’Golo Kante (Al Ittihad)

Ex-Chelsea midfielder Kante has had a tough debut season in Saudi Arabia as 2023 champion Al Ittihad relinquished its crown. However, the Frenchman was often the consistent presence in a struggling team, with coach Marcelo Gallardo recognising that contribution by making him captain towards the end of the campaign. The inclusion of Kante in the France squad was somewhat of a surprise; the 33-year-old played an influential role in France’s 2018 FIFA World Cup win but last played for Didier Deschamps’ side in June 2022.

Spain – Aymeric Laporte (Al Nassr)

Laporte may have been worried about his chances of making the squad after being dropped for Spain’s final two EURO 2024 qualifiers last November but the Al Nassr centre-back has been in fine form for his club and earned himself a deserved recall. Laporte arrived in Riyadh from Manchester City and has been a calming presence in defence since, as well as a major threat from corners – scoring four goals, including winners against Damac and Al Khaleej in April.

Croatia – Marcelo Brozovic (Al Nassr)

Defensive midfielder Brozovic helped make Laporte’s life easier at Nassr this season as one of the team’s most reliable performers. Few in the Saudi Pro League are better at breaking up play and distributing the ball than ex-Inter Milan man Brozovic, one of Croatia’s star performers as it reached the 2018 FIFA World Cup final. Brozovic has continued to be one of the first names on coach Zlatko Dalic’s team sheet and will once again start in midfielder alongside Croatia legend Luka Modric at EURO 2024.

Serbia – Aleksander Mitrovic (Al Hilal), Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Al Hilal)

Perhaps because they joined Al Hilal at the same time, Serbia international team-mates turned club colleagues Aleksandar Mitrovic and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic settled effortlessly into life in the Kingdom, becoming a dominant duo for the Saudi Pro League champions. Both will be essential cogs in Dragan Stojković’s team, which opens its campaign against one of the favourites in England.

Mitrovic finished his maiden season in Saudi Arabia with a prolific haul of 40 goals in 43 games across all competitions for Hilal, which wouldn’t have enjoyed such a trophy-laden campaign without his contribution. Mitrovic is Serbia’s all-time leading scorer with 57 goals in 89 appearances – 19 clear of next best Stjepan Bobek – and is the second most-capped player in the current squad behind captain Dusan Tadic (106).

Only Riyad Mahrez had more Saudi Pro League assists than Milinkovic-Savic this year, with the midfielder creating 12 goals for his team-mates and scoring 11 himself. Adept at transitioning the ball and arriving late to score, Milinkovic-Savic’s statistics are despite him usually playing a little deeper for Hilal than he does for Serbia, which tends to use him in a more obvious attacking role.

Scotland – Jack Hendry (Al Ettifaq)

Centre-back Hendry left his native Scotland in 2021 after becoming frustrated with a lack of game time at Celtic and after spells in Belgium and Italy, Al Ettifaq boss Steven Gerrard snapped him up last summer. He has enjoyed an excellent season, helping Ettifaq to the league’s second-best defensive record – playing every minute of every game. Hendry was a regular starter in Scotland coach Steve Clarke’s five-man defence during EURO 2024 qualifying and is likely to continue that role at the tournament.

Netherlands – Georginio Wijnaldum (Al Ettifaq)

Ettifaq’s second player at EURO 2024 is ex-Liverpool midfielder Wijnaldum, who has scored six and assisted five in the Saudi Pro League since arriving from PSG last summer. Wijnaldum had seemingly fallen out of favour with Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman after moving to the Kingdom and was omitted for all of last autumn’s six EURO 2024 qualifiers. But Wijnaldum found himself back for a friendly against Scotland in March, scoring a goal that sealed his place at the European Championship, his fourth major tournament for the Netherlands.

Belgium – Yannick Carrasco (Al Shabab)

One of Belgium’s famed Golden Generation, 30-year-old Carrasco is now among the Red Devils’ more experienced faces. Recently described as a model professional by Al Shabab team-mate Romain Saïss, Carrasco bagged 11 goals and seven assists this season, finishing as the joint-top scorer in the King’s Cup and netting in narrow league losses to Al Ahli and Al Nassr. For Belgium, Carrasco isn’t always a regular starter, though he featured in some part of seven of his country’s EURO 2024 qualifiers.

Romania – Nicolae Stanciu (Damac), Andrei Burca (Al Akhdoud)

A third nation with two Saudi-based players, Romania is back at a major international tournament for only the second time since 2008, guided by coach Edward Iordănescu. His captain is Damac midfielder Nicolae Stanciu. He has played a role in nearly a third of Damac’s Saudi Pro League goals this season, scoring four and creating seven. The most notable of these was a free kick in the 1-1 draw with eventual champions Al Hilal in September. For Romania, Stanciu is one of his country’s most influential attacking players.

Looking after things defensively for Romania, meanwhile, is Al Akhdoud defender Andrei Burcă. Remarkably, Burcă actually scored more times than Stanciu in 2023-24, his aerial threat from corners producing six goals that proved vital as his side secured Saudi Pro League survival on the final day of the season. A muscle injury meant Burcă missed the final few weeks of the campaign and he is fighting a race against time to be fit in time for the start of EURO 2024.

Turkey – Merih Demiral (Al Ahli)

Centre-back Demiral has been a colossus in defence for Ahli when he has played this season,
helping the newly promoted side finish in third place with a divisional-high 15 clean sheets in the process. A meniscus injury kept him out for a couple of months but Demiral still featured in 20 games, nine of which finished as shutouts for Ahli. The ex-Juventus defender will be hoping to create a happier European Championship memory this time around, having scored an own goal in the opening match of EURO 2020 as Turkey lost 3-0 to eventual winners Italy.

Georgia – Solomon Kvirkvelia (Al Akhdoud)

Like Demiral, Kvirkvelia is likely to have his hands full at EURO 2024 with both Turkey and Georgia facing Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in the group stage. For Kvirkvelia, the tournament will be particularly special as it is the first time that Georgia has ever qualified for a major international final. Kvirkvelia plays alongside captain Guram Kashia in the heart of Georgia’s defence and successfully kept Greece out in a memorable final qualifier in March that secured his country’s spot at EURO 2024. In Germany, Kvirkvelia will need to channel some of the underdog spirit that helped club side Al Akhdoud avoid relegation on the final day of the season.

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