Messi, Benzema, and More: 5 Champions League Winners Who Left Europe This Summer

Lionel Messi Has The Fifth-Most Wins In UEFA Champions League History
Lionel Messi Has The Fifth-Most Wins In UEFA Champions League History

Thanks to the rise of the Major League Soccer (MLS) and the Saudi Pro League (SPL), more and more footballers are choosing to leave behind the allure of the Champions League. These leagues guarantee a handsome payday and do not stifle one with competitions, which is ideal for players who have lived through the highs and lows of European football.

Today, we will take a look at five superstars who will not participate in Europe’s most elite competition, the UEFA Champions League in the 2023-24 season. Here are five Champions League winners who have left the continent this summer:

#5 Riyad Mahrez – Manchester City to Al-Ahli

Riyad Mahrez has left Champions League winners Manchester City for Al-Ahli
Manchester City star Riyad Mahrez

Stunning soccer fans across the globe, Algerian superstar Riyad Mahrez left Premier League and Champions League holders Manchester City to join Saudi Arabian side Al-Ahli on July 28. The Cityzens have earned a reported $38.3 million fee from the winger’s sale and are yet to bring in a replacement.

Mahrez, who has five Premier League titles and a Champions League trophy to his name, has become one of the highest-paid players in the world following his move to the desert. According to 90min, Mahrez will earn about $57.09 million per year during his two-year stint with Al-Ahli, which is equivalent to about $1.1 million per week.

Before bidding Europe goodbye, Mahrez featured in 55 Champions League matches, scoring 20 times and claiming 16 assists.

#4 N’Golo Kante — Chelsea to Al-Ittihad

N'Golo Kante Traded Champions League Football For Saudi Arabia
Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante

Chelsea legend N’Golo Kante refrained from signing a contract extension with Chelsea earlier this summer, paving the way for his Saudi departure. Two-time Premier League winner Kante, who helped the Blues to the Champions League trophy in 2021, moved to Al-Ittihad as a free agent on July 1 after his contract expired at Stamford Bridge.

The 32-year-old, who claimed two assists in 31 Champions League games for the Pensioners, is set to earn a handsome salary at Al-Ittihad. As per 90min, he will get $27.28 million/year in Saudi during his four-year stay, which is around $7.6 million/year more than his last-drawn Chelsea salary.

#3 Sadio Mane — Bayern Munich to Al-Nassr

Sadio Mane Has Left Europe Behind For Al-Nassr
Sadio Mane Celebrating After Scoring For Liverpool

Saudi Pro League side Al-Nassr shook the world when they signed Cristiano Ronaldo in January, handing him a $224 million/year contract and making him the highest-paid player in history. They have struck big again, this time signing 2019 Champions League winner Sadio Mane from Bayern Munich.

Sadio Mane, who spent only a season at Bayern after his ill-fated switch from Liverpool in July 2022, was officially unveiled as an Al-Nassr player on Tuesday (August 3). The former Reds star, who has scored 27 Champions League goals in 64 games, has agreed a three-year-deal with Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr. As per 90min, he will earn around $43 million/year or $823,600/week in Saudi Arabia.

#2 Karim Benzema — Real Madrid to Al-Ittihad

Five-time Champions League Winner Karim Benzema Has Left Europe For Al-Ittihad
Five-time Champions League Winner Karim Benzema

Real Madrid legend Karim Benzema closed his European chapter after the end of the 2022-23 season, greenlighting a move to Saudi Pro League side Al-Ittihad. The Frenchman, who won a whopping five UEFA Champions League trophies with Real Madrid, has signed a three-year deal and is set to earn an eye-popping $217.9 million/year during his stint (via 90min).

Ballon d’Or holder Benzema is one of the finest strikers of this generation. The former Los Blancos number 9 is the fourth-highest goalscorer in Champions League history, with him recording 90 goals in 152 appearances.

#1 Lionel Messi — Paris Saint-Germain to Inter Miami

Champions League's Second-Highest Scorer Lionel Messi Has Joined Inter Miami
Lionel Messi

According to sources, Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal tabled a $1 billion+ offer to bring Lionel Messi to Saudi Arabia this summer. The Barcelona legend still turned them down, joining David Beckham-owned Inter Miami instead.

Messi, who has won 12 league titles and four Champions League trophies, has signed a two-and-a-half-year deal with Miami. He will earn around $54 million/year, making him the highest earner in MLS history.

Seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi has left Europe as the second-leading scorer in the Champions League. Between Barcelona and PSG, the 36-year-old played 163 matches and scored 129 goals.

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