Former Leeds United forward Noel Whelan has said Matheus Pereira’s move to Saudi side Al-Hilal is ‘purely about money’, in an interview with Football Insider.
After scoring 11 goals and recording six assists in 33 Premier League appearances as West Bromwich Albion’s standout player last season, rumours about his future started to heat up in the summer with the Baggies’ relegation from the Premier League.
As per a report from the Express in May, Leicester City, Leeds United, West Ham United and Bundesliga outfit RB Leipzig were all interested in acquiring the 25-year-old’s services and may have had a great opportunity to return to the top flight of English football this season.
Quiz: Do you remember which player scored West Brom’s first goal in each of the last 15 seasons?
But it was Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal who managed to land the Brazilian in what has been seen as an extremely surprising move by many, with this move being sealed at the end of last week as he finally leaves The Hawthorns, after a summer of intense speculation.
The winger arrived in the West Midlands back in 2019 on an initial loan agreement, a deal that was able to be made permanent the following summer due to their promotion.
But despite previously having three years left on his current deal with the Baggies, Pereira signalled his intention to leave after an individually successful campaign last term despite his club’s relegation back to the Championship.
One person who is critical of his departure is former player and pundit Noel Whelan, who believes this move to Al-Hilal could be detrimental for the 25-year-old’s career and thinks his decision to relocate to the Middle East is money-motivated.
Speaking to Football Insider, Whelan said: “I think he has come out and said that, financially, that’s the best move he could get.
“He’ll never have to worry about money again. From a football side of things, you’re taking yourself out of the spotlight, but you’re gaining financially.
“It isn’t a league that is watched throughout the league. They want some superstars in the side and people go there for the payday.
“They will pay a ridiculous amount of money for them. But you’re certainly not showcasing yourself as you would do in Europe or the Premier League.
“It is certainly not a move that, in my opinion, you want to make for the good of your career.
“If you’re looking to hit the heights and win things, you’re taking yourself off the map. It’s purely about money.”
Pereira’s move to Saudi may not be the most beneficial for his career, but what about his mental wellbeing and family?
It’s clear from the statement he released shortly before his move that he was unsettled by speculation and accusations – and this could be part of the reason why he decided to move away from England in an attempt to get out of the spotlight.
In the Middle East, he will just be able to do the thing he loves doing the most: playing football. And if this transfer is the right move for him and his family at this time, then who are we to judge him for this decision?
Money-related accusations will continue to be thrown around about this move for years to come, but it could just be a period of respite for Pereira and his closest family members before a potential move back to one of Europe’s elite divisions.
At 25, there’s still plenty of time for him to make his mark elsewhere, so we shouldn’t write him out of the script just yet.