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Saudi players could head to Europe’s big leagues

Saudi captain Osama Hawsawi has experience of playing abroad. (Reuters)
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.