Al Ittihad failed in their late pursuit of Mohamed Salah, but Al Khaleej winger Fabio Martins believes the Egyptian will arrive in the Saudi Pro League soon enough.
Liverpool rejected a bid reportedly worth up to £150million for Salah, who Jurgen Klopp was determined not to lose late in the transfer window.
It has been speculated that Al Ittihad – who signed Karim Benzema, Fabinho, Jota, Luiz Felipe and N’Golo Kante – will come back with an improved bid for Salah in the coming 12 months.
Salah is an icon of the Arab world, and Martins hopes to soon go up against the 31-year-old.
“If this transfer happens, it will be another big star arriving here to the country,” he told Stats Perform at the Thinking Football Summit.
“Playing against Salah would be very special too. It didn’t happen [this time] but I think in the next market in January, they will try for sure again to bring him, and let’s see what happens.
“I will be very happy because Salah is a player that I like, he’s similar to me, because of the hair, the way he plays. So, I like Salah, and I hope that he comes to Saudi.”
Saudi’s wealth was not enough to persuade Lionel Messi to join Al Hilal, with the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner instead opting to join Inter Miami.
Martins, though, has not given up hope of Messi joining Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar in the Pro League.
“Messi is a player that I like so much. But I understand, Messi had a plan in his head about his career, what he wants and he went to Miami,” Martins said.
“But for sure, if Messi arrived here in Saudi, the league with big stars like Cristiano and Messi, and now with Benzema and Neymar, it will get to a level that was never seen before.
“Let’s see if Salah comes, he’s a big player too. I believe that in the next market, they will try to bring some big players and let’s see what will happen.”
It is not only players that Saudi clubs have attempted to lure from Europe, with coaches also heading to the Gulf state.
Those have included former Rangers and Aston Villa boss, and Liverpool great, Steven Gerrard, who has helped Al Ettifaq sign Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum, Moussa Dembele and Demarai Gray.
“You saw Gerrard go to Al Ettifaq and bring good players like Henderson, Gray, Moussa Dembele.
“In Al Shabab now with [Yannick] Carrasco, [Roman] Saiss. I think step by step the league will grow and for sure it’s important to bring coaches that have the potential to make the players grow to the next level, and I am certain that the league will grow gradually.”