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Rudan blames Saudis for A

Jan 19, 2024

Stevie Nicol gives the prices he would accept if he were running Liverpool for star Mohamed Salah. (1:59)

Saudi Arabia's arrival as a major player in football's global transfer market is having a knock-on effect on Australia's ability to lure overseas recruits to the A-League Men.

Western Sydney Wanderers boss Marko Rudan said the competition was encountering the toughest recruitment period in his memory after a Saudi splurge -- estimated to be worth AU$1.41 billion in transfer fees alone -- has turned the market upside down. Those eye-watering figures do not include salaries, which pushes the A-League Men further down the pecking order.

Rudan has only been able to add one overseas recruit this off-season -- former Leeds United forward Marcus Antonsson -- to go alongside his Brazilian defender and captain Marcelo.

- Lynch: Players who should be on the A-Leagues' transfer radar- View the full A-League fixture: Men's | Women's- Subscribe to ESPN's Women's Football Podcast: The Far Post

A-League Men clubs are allowed five foreign players in their squad. Rudan, whose side face Adelaide United in the last 16 of the Australia Cup on Tuesday, said the issue was endemic across the competition.

"It's not just Saudi Arabia too, there's a lot of countries that can offer a lot more money than ours," Rudan said.

"Have a look at the imports that have been signed [in the A-League Men] this year, across the board it's not like there's been any real headline [grabbers] out there. That tells you what the market is [doing]. We're struggling.

"Twelve months ago, there were a lot of players at my disposal but it's so difficult this year.

"Saudi Arabia's got a second division, as well, that are paying astronomical amounts of money.

"This year has been the toughest for me personally in the last five years in the A-League that I've had to encounter. Take Melbourne City away and no other team has gone and made a lot of noise."

The Wanderers were unable to retain Tunisia international Amor Layouni, who Rudan claimed was asking for a salary in line with that of Melbourne City and Socceroos star Mathew Leckie.

Adding to the pain for A-League Men clubs is the increase in young players heading overseas. The Wanderers, for example, have sold Kusini Yengi to England's Portsmouth and Calem Nieuwenhof to Scotland's Hearts.

Despite the exodus, Rudan was confident the Wanderers would strengthen before the A-League Men kicks off in October.

"We're not finished. It takes a bit of time. We're three foreigners short," Rudan said. "We've been talking for the last four to five weeks with a few players, so we certainly want to improve the current squad that we have got."

- Lynch: Players who should be on the A-Leagues' transfer radar- View the full A-League fixture: Men's | Women's- Subscribe to ESPN's Women's Football Podcast: The Far Post