The huge transfer moves made by the Saudi Pro League have been one of the major stories of the summer as superstar names continue to flock to the Middle East.
Following Cristiano Ronaldo’s switch to Al Nassr at the start of 2023, there has been a major influx of transfer investment into the four state-backed clubs, including Ronaldo’s team, plus Al Ittihad, Al Hilal and Al Ahli.
Among the names making the switch is current Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema, who swapped Real Madrid for defending champions Al Ittihad, before Neymar completed a £76.9m ($97.8m) switch from Paris Saint-Germain to Al Hilal.
With the growth of talent competing in the Saudi Arabian top-flight in 2023/24, can the league challenge the Premier League, La Liga and others in the coming years?
MORE: All Saudi transfers involving big-name players: List of stars to move to Pro League in Middle East
The Saudi Pro League will have more global attention on it in the coming months, but despite its clear and ongoing improvement, it is still a long distance behind over major leagues in world football.
Based on football data experts OPTA’s latest measurement, the Saudi Pro League ranks as 36th in domestic leagues, within the Opta Power Rankings for 2023.
In comparison to other major leagues, they are significantly behind, Lionel Messi and the MLS (29th), with European leagues dominating the top five.
With the Saudi Pro League well outside of the running for a leading position within the Opta Power Rankings, the order for the 2023 final listing is as expected, with the English Premier League rated as a No.1
The final rankings for each league are based on the average Opta Power Ratings for each team within it, for example the average for the Premier League is 87.1, compared to the German Bundesliga in second, with an average of 85.4.
𝐒𝐭𝐫𝐨𝐧𝐠𝐞𝐬𝐭 𝐋𝐞𝐚𝐠𝐮𝐞𝐬 𝐢𝐧 𝐖𝐨𝐫𝐥𝐝 𝐅𝐨𝐨𝐭𝐛𝐚𝐥𝐥? 🌍
What are the strongest men’s leagues in world football? By using the Opta Power Rankings we attempt to answer that question.
We also look at the new Messi vs Ronaldo argument: MLS or Saudi Pro League? 👀
Opta have offered an explanation over how their power ratings and rankings are devised to evaluate individual teams to generate overall positions of domestic league against each other.
The process used is the ELO-based rating system, which has been adapted to different sports, following its initial use in chess.
FIFA’s rankings also use the format, which for domestic sides involves a detailed analysis of match results from over 2.5m games since the start of 1990 to assign a rating to each team that is comparable across leagues, countries, and continents.
Each result is given points, based on the result, and whatever the home team gains in ELO points, the away team loses the same value (or vice versa). If the home team gains 20 ELO points, the away team will lose 20 ELO points.
It also offers for different variables to be included, depending on the importance of the game played and the competition it is in, with greater focus placed on top level competition.
ELO points are calculated based on criteria involving the individual team, league rating, country rating and confederation rating, with the final data then assessed to provide averages, which rate both teams and leagues.
Unsurprisingly, due to the dominance of the major European leagues within the overall power rankings, the top ten list of clubs involves teams from the Premier League, Bundesliga and La Liga.
Brazil’s Serie A is the highest ranked non-European league (9th) and their leading team, Palmeiras is the top ranked outside of the European ‘bubble’, in 61st.
Manchester City’s incredible treble win at the end of the 2022/23 season places them as No.1 with three other Premier League teams in the top 10.