Saudi players could head to Europe’s big leagues

Saudi captain Osama Hawsawi has experience of playing abroad. (Reuters)
Updated 22 October 2017
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Saudi players could head to Europe’s big leagues

LONDON: The Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) is planning to boost its preparations for next year’s World Cup by loaning out as many members of the national team as possible to European clubs in the January transfer window to gain top-level experience, according to reports.
The General Sports Authority and the Football Federation last week signed a deal with La Liga in a bid to take football in the Kingdom to the next level. It is being reported, by Middle East website Ahdaaf, that part of the agreement aims to accelerate the transfer of top Saudi players to La Liga teams ahead of the World Cup in Russia, the first the national team has qualified for in 12 years.
Scouts from several La Liga clubs are expected to arrive in the Kingdom over the next few weeks to take a closer look at the players listed for loan by the SAFF as part of the agreement. A shortlist of players likely to be on the plane to Russia next summer has been drawn up and discussions with clubs and leagues in Europe apparently commenced last month.
The Saudi FF’s plan is targeting placing their players with mid-table Spanish and Italian clubs, but are receptive to negotiating with well-heeled clubs elsewhere on the continent.
Ittihad winger Fahad Al-Muwallad is believed to have already secured a loan move to an unnamed Spanish club while representatives of Serie A side Torino reportedly watched Al Ahli center-back Motaz Hawsawi in his side’s 3-0 victory over Jeddah rivals Ittihad at the weekend. Captain Osama Hawsawi already has experience abroad having played for Anderlecht in Belgium in 2012.
Scouts from various European clubs will also be present at the Portugal vs Saudi Arabia friendly scheduled on November 10 in the Portuguese city of Leiria to assess prospective targets ahead of the January transfer window.


Man City humbled in 2-1 loss to Lyon in Champions League

City were humbled by French side Lyon in Manchester. (Reuters)
Updated 20 September 2018
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Man City humbled in 2-1 loss to Lyon in Champions League

  • City’s players were humbled 2-1 by Lyon in a sloppy and apathetic display at the start of their European campaign

MANCHESTER, England: If Manchester City wants to finally win a first Champions League title, it will have to start taking the competition a bit more seriously — on and off the field.
Surrounded by swathes of empty seats in the Etihad Stadium, City’s players were humbled 2-1 by Lyon in a sloppy and apathetic display at the start of their European campaign on Wednesday.
Banned from the touchline and unable to communicate with the bench, City manager Pep Guardiola did fill one seat in the stands and he saw his Premier League champions easily picked apart by the French visitors.
“We felt under threat every time we lost the ball and sometimes that brings the confidence a little bit lower,” said City assistant manager Mikel Arteta, who was in charge on the bench in Guardiola’s absence.
Errors by midfielder Fernandinho led to both Lyon goals, typifying how careless City was against a team that finished third in the French league last season and was even held to a draw at the weekend by 10-man Caen.
When a pass by the Brazilian midfielder was intercepted around the halfway line, Lyon charged forward. Nabil Fekir sent in a cross from the left that evaded Fabian Delph’s swinging legs, allowing Maxwel Cornet to slot it home in the 26th minute. Delph held his head in his hands as the consequences of his mistake became clear.
City’s troubles deepened when Fernandinho was caught in possession again. Memphis Depay set Fekir on a run and the forward doubled Lyon’s lead in the 43rd by striking through the legs of John Stones.
“It was a difficult game,” said Depay, who struggled to make an impact at Manchester United before leaving after two seasons in 2017. “But when we had the ball we tried to play and when we won the ball we tried to counterattack.”
Perhaps the only reason for City to feel aggrieved in the first half was Gabriel Jesus being denied a penalty when he was tripped by former Manchester United defender Rafael da Silva just before Depay scored.
“To concede two goals like we did is very frustrating,” Stones said. “We came in at halftime a bit deflated I think. But we picked ourselves up and we came out second half fighting and played a better second half.”
But the improvement wasn’t sufficient.
City pulled one back in the 67th when Bernardo Silva scored from substitute Leroy Sane’s cutback. But the attacking threat was too patchy from a City side that won the Premier League with a record 100 points only four months ago, and are widely seen as one of the big favorites in this season’s Champions League.
“I suffered as I was scared they’d score a second goal,” Lyon coach Bruno Genesio said. “We would have taken 2-2 before the match but given the way the game went we’d have been disappointed not to leave with the three points.”
With Hoffenheim and Shakhtar Donetsk also in Group F, City appeared to have one of the kinder draws but is now playing catch-up.
Celebrating a decade under Abu Dhabi ownership, which allowed City to assemble a squad for more than $1 billion, the Champions League is the one big prize the club has yet to win.
But City fans still have a fraught relationship with Europe’s premier competition.