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Gary Neville’s Saudi hypocrisy

Gary Neville in action as a pundit (Getty images)

Oh dear. Gary Neville is at it again.The left-wing right-back has waded into the latest trend in British football: superannuated superstars ending their playing days in Saudi Arabia. Neville – a man who has never met a camera he didn’t like – is calling on the Premier League to stop the transfer of players to the oil rich nation until ‘it is certain the integrity of its competition is not being put at risk’.

Saudi Arabis’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which owns Newcastle United, declared in June that it was taking over four leading clubs in the country, including Al-Nassr, who signed Cristiano Ronaldo in December. Questions have been asked about whether PIF holds a stake in Chelsea’s ultimate owners, the private equity firm Clearlake Capital. And Neville, card-carrying Labour member that he is, has now fumed to the BBC (who else?) that:

The Premier League should put an instant embargo on transfers to Saudi Arabia to ensure the integrity of the game isn’t being damaged. Checks should be made on the appropriateness of the transactions. If it comes through that process, obviously transfers could open up again. But I do believe, at this moment in time, transfers should be halted until you look into the ownership structure at Chelsea and whether there are beneficial transfer dealings that are improper.

All perfectly valid. But Mr S couldn’t help noting that Neville is somewhat selective when criticising Middle Eastern investment in the beautiful game. After all, this was the man who worked for the Qatari-owned state broadcaster beIN during the World Cup, attacked the English media’s ‘mass negativity’ over the hosts and claimed he would ‘find it difficult’ to oppose a Qatari-led takeover of Manchester United. Is there really such a difference between the Saudis and the Qataris? Other than the fact one that pays

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Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to or message @MrSteerpike

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