Richard Fitzpatrick: China missed its chance to be a football power – but Saudis can score on the rebound

There’s little stopping the Middle East kingdom from becoming a global sports powerhouse – but own goals in the Far East should serve as a warning

Ballon d’Or holder Karim Benzema, Rúben Neves, Roberto Firmino and N’Golo Kanté have all joined Cristiano Ronaldo (right) in Saudi Arabia Picture: Getty

Silvio Berlusconi knew. When the late Italian prime minister was asked about the future of Italian football in 2007, the year of his fifth European Cup triumph as president of Milan, he saw two immediate threats.

“The English Premier League will be number one, far ahead of everyone. We are lagging behind. We don’t have much funds,” Berlusconi said.

“Then the Arabs will enter football, while we will have no attraction. There is no infrastructure, ...