Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr have been banned from registering new players by FIFA over missed payments on their signing of Ahmed Musa from Leicester City in 2018.
It’s all happening in Saudi Arabia right now with some of football’s biggest names making their move to the country to join the Saudi Pro League. We’ve already seen the likes of Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kante, Edouard Mendy, Jota, Ruben Neves and Kalidou Koulibaly all sign up to what appears to be a growing league.
Another name to make the move recently is Marcelo Brozovic, who has switched Inter Milan for Al-Nassr, joining Cristiano Ronaldo at the club — after the Portuguese star became the first big name to move to Saudi Arabia at the start of the year. However, there’s a bit of a roadblock in Brozovic’s signing.
As things stand, Al-Nassr may not actually be allowed to register Brozovic to their squad, and definitely not any other potential new arrival if they wish to keep up with the likes of Al-Ahli and Al-Ittihad. That’s because Al-Nassr have been handed a FIFA ban on registering new players which is set to last for three consecutive transfer windows, meaning no new signings until January 2025.
The ban comes as a result of the transfer which saw Ahmed Musa sign from Leicester in 2018, ending his unhappy spell in the Premier League. First joining the Foxes in 2016 from CSKA Moscow for a club-record £16.6m, when they were defending champions, the Nigerian struggled to displace or even offer competition for Jamie Vardy at the spearhead of Leicester’s attack.
Less than 18-months on, Musa was sent back on loan to CSKA Moscow, having scored just five goals in 33 games for Leicester across all competitions. Once that loan move was over, Musa left Leicester permanently, joining Al-Nassr for an initial fee €18million, around £16m at the time.
But the problem came from the add-ons. Per the official document released by FIFA, Al-Nassr had agreed to pay Leicester an extra €200,000 for every 20 Saudi Pro League matches Musa started for them, up to and including 200 appearances overall. They also promised €250,000 for every top-three finish and €250,000 for every time they reached the semi-finals of the Champions League while Musa was still at the club.
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On top of that Al-Nassr also agreed to pay Leicester €10,000 for every start Musa made over the most recently-triggered threshold should the Nigerian be sold before reaching the next threshold, as well as a pro rata sum based on the number of starts already made. And that is where the problem lies.
In April 2021, Leicester filled a complaint to FIFA requesting €460,000 in missed payments from Al-Nassr for Musa. The Nigerian had been released by Al-Nassr in October 2020, after just two years with the club during which he scored 11 goals in 60 appearances. Of those 60 appearances, Musa started 41 times in the Saudi Pro League, earning Leicester €200,000 (for hitting the 40-mark, with the 20-mark potentially being paid as it wasn’t included in the complaint) plus an extra €10,000 for the one appearance over the threshold. Musa also helped Al-Nassr finish second in the Saudi Pro League, triggering the payment of €250,000.
Al-Nassr disputed the complaint at the time, claiming they had until the end of July 2021 to pay per the original agreements. In October 2021 a FIFA Tribunal found in favour of Leicester and ordered Al-Nassr to pay the €460,000 within 45 days, or face a three-window transfer ban. Once again, Al-Nassr fought the decision, taking it to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but lost meaning after almost two years, the punishment has now finally come into play.
According to reports, Al-Nassr have suggested that the issues with the payments came before the Public Investment Fund bought the club, with plans to settle the debt as soon as possible.