21-Year-Old Gabri Veiga Completes Move From Celta Vigo to Saudi Side Al Ahli
Saudi Pro League club Al Ahli confirmed the signing of 21-year-old Gabri Veiga from LaLiga side Celta Vigo on Saturday. Veiga, who attracted interest from Premier League clubs this summer, put pen to paper on a three-year deal with the Saudi side.
Veiga becomes the eighth player to leave European football for Al Ahli during this transfer window. He will join the likes of Roberto Firmino, Edouard Mendy, Allan Saint-Maximin, Roger Ibanez, and Riyad Mahrez in Jeddah. At the age of 21, he also became the youngest player to make the switch from Europe to the Saudi Pro League so far this summer.
Veiga, a product of Celta Vigo’s academy, scored 11 goals and registered 4 assists for the Spanish side last season. Former Celta Vigo head coach Carlos Carvalhal described the attacking midfielder as “an extra special player”.
Serie A title holders SSC Napoli appeared to be the favorites to sign Veiga after having agreed a transfer fee with Celta Vigo last week, as reported by transfer expert Fabrizio Romano. However, speaking with Italian media yesterday, Veiga’s agent Pini Zahavi revealed that the deal with Napoli fell through because the Italian side “didn’t want to pay Gabri Veiga’s termination clause.”
Rafa Benitez, the current manager of Celta Vigo, commented on Veiga’s imminent transfer to Al Ahli yesterday: “The player’s life will change for the better. Given his age, he will be able to return to play in more competitive leagues, even if the Arab one is becoming increasingly competitive”.
However, Veiga’s transfer to the Saudi Pro League was also met with criticism. Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos called the move “embarassing” in the comment section of an Instagram post uploaded by Fabrizio Romano. Kroos had previously spoken up against the prospect of young players moving to Saudi Arabia in his podcast Einfach mal Luppen.
“What I have a problem with are the 26, 27, 28-year-olds, who have absolutely top quality, play in top clubs in Europe and have the chance to achieve that in the next three or four years what others who are going there have already achieved. I’m not a fan of that. It’s an incredibly bad example for a lot of young youth players that the motivation is money. I think it’s a pity for everyone who puts sporting thoughts to the back of their minds in the absolute top football age. That’s just not a good role model for me and a danger for the football of the future,” Kroos said.