Turki Al-Alshaikh: More Saudi stars will make move to Europe following loaning out of nine players to Spanish clubs

Al-Hilal winger Salem Al-Dawsari has been snapped up by La Liga club Villarreal
Updated 22 January 2018
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Turki Al-Alshaikh: More Saudi stars will make move to Europe following loaning out of nine players to Spanish clubs

DUBAI: Turki Al-Alshaikh, head of Saudi Arabia’s General Sport Authority (GSA), believes the loaning out of nine Saudi Arabian players to Spanish clubs is just the start and will pave the way for more Saudi stars to head to Europe and represent the country.
At a joint press conference with Spain’s Liga de Fútbol Profesional (LFP) held in Riyadh on Sunday night the GSA announced that the nine players had completed loan moves to clubs in the Spanish first and second divisions.
The deals are part of an agreement signed between the two parties in October last year, aimed at developing football in the Kingdom.
Commenting on the transfers, Al-Alshaikh said it was “an opportunity for the players to learn what it is to be real professionals, gain experience and represent Saudi Arabia abroad.”
Al-Alshaikh was central to the completion of the transfers, laying the foundations for scouts from Spanish clubs to visit Saudi Arabia to select players. He sees the loans as being the first part of what he hopes will result in a host of Saudi stars make the move to the big European leagues.
“I have infinite faith in the ability of our players. It is our role, all of us, to back them in this experience, which will be the beginning of many more transfers to Europe,” Al-Alshaikh said.
While the benefits of the move for the national team during World Cup year are easy to see, there have been concerns from clubs at losing their key players for the remainder of the season.
Al-Alshaikh added: “This is a big step, a substantial move forward for Saudi sports. We have to put the national team interests above everything else.” 
Of the nine to make the move to Spain three are key men who played a huge part in getting the Green Falcons to this summer’s World Cup.
Al-Hilal winger Salem Al-Dawsari was snapped up by Villarreal, who are currently fifth in the La Liga table, while Al-Nassr playmaker Yahya Al-Shehri joined mid-table side Leganes. Relegation-battling Levante boosted their ranks with Fahad Al-Muwallad, the Al-Ittihad attacker who scored the goal that beat Japan and got Saudi Arabia to Russia. The three are expected to form the heart of the Green Falcons attack this summer.
For the Spanish clubs, the loans are a way to gain exposure in a little-tapped market.
“With Yahia Al-Shehri's arrival, the club has improved its squad and also gained visibility in the Arab world,” Leganes said in a statement.
Another three promising players who are on the fringes of the Saudi Arabia squad have also made the move to Spain. Al-Fateh midfielder Nouh Al-Mousa was not part of Bert van Marwijk’s squad in the qualifiers, but has established himself as a candidate for the team heading to Moscow with strong performances in the Gulf Cup. Al-Mousa signed for Valladolid, currently ninth in the Spanish second division.
Joining Al-Mousa in signing for Segunda Division mid-table teams are Al-Shabab duo Abdulmajeed Al-Sulaihem, who moved to Madrid-based Rayo Vallecano and Abdullah Al-Hamdan who was signed by Sporting Gijon.
Completing the nine players are three youngsters, identified through the National Scouting Committee as Saudi-born talents and have since been naturalized. Youngsters Ali Al-Nimr, Jabir Mustafa and Marwan Othman were all born in Saudi Arabia to expat parents, and have been identified as talents who could serve the national team in the future. The trio were signed by Riyadh-based Al-Shabab before being loaned out to Spanish clubs. Al-Nimr joins second division side Numancia while Mustafa and Othman will play for the B teams of Villarreal and Leganes respectively.
THREE PLAYERS ARAB NEWS EXPECTS TO SHINE IN SPAIN
YAHYA AL-SHEHRI — LEGANES: At 164 cm, the Al-Nassr playmaker may lack the physique to match his European counterparts, but Al-Shehri makes up for it with his eye for the killer pass and silky dribbling skills. The 27-year-old can function centrally or wide on either flank, and by joining Leganes he is at a club where finding first-team football will not be a rarity. Al-Shehri has what it takes to grab this chance in impress in La Liga.
FAHAD AL-MUWALLAD — LEVANTE: Arguably the highest profile player of the nine, Al-Muwallad’s pace and energy can add much-needed flair to Levante’s attack. The Valencian side has the second-lowest goal tally in the top division, and if Al-Muwallad can replicate the form that saw him score 11 goals in 20 matches for Al-Ittihad last season, he will quickly become a fan favorite.
NOOH AL-MOUSA — VALLADOLID: Al-Hilal’s Salem Al-Dawsari may be the bigger name on the list, but it is Al-Mousa who can surprise many with his abilities. The combative midfielder made his name at his hometown club Al-Fateh, and following impressive performances in the league, he earned his first Saudi Arabia call-up under Edgardo Bauza. Al-Mousa’s physicality in defensive midfield and his composure on the ball are qualities that can serve him well at second division side Valladolid.


‘If home crowds can’t help you, nothing can’, says golf star Rory McIlroy

Updated 17 July 2019
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‘If home crowds can’t help you, nothing can’, says golf star Rory McIlroy

  • The world number three is the bookmakers’ favorite to lift the Claret Jug for the second time on Sunday
  • British Open returns to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951

PORTRUSH, United Kingdom: Rory McIlroy said on Wednesday that he is not feeling extra pressure this week as the British Open returns to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951, and is hoping home fans can help him end a five-year major drought.
The world number three is the bookmakers’ favorite to lift the Claret Jug for the second time on Sunday, despite not having claimed a major title since the 2014 PGA Championship.
He said in the past he struggled being the focus of attention at Irish Opens, although he did win that tournament in 2016.
“I think it’s probably easier this week because it’s such a big tournament,” said McIlroy, who opens his title tilt at Royal Portrush at 0909 GMT on Thursday alongside US Open winner Gary Woodland and England’s Paul Casey.
“You’ve got the best players in the world here, and I don’t feel like I’m the center of attention.
“I’m here to enjoy myself. Hopefully it doesn’t take another 68 years for the tournament to come back here. But at the same time, I mightn’t get an opportunity to play an Open Championship here again.
“I’m really just treating it as a wonderful experience and one that I really want to enjoy.
“I’m going to love being out there and having the crowds and having the support. If that can’t help you, then nothing can.”
McIlroy fired a course-record 61 on the Dunluce Links at the age of just 16 in 2005, and is one of three Northern Irish major champions in the field along with Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke.
He said his first memories of Portrush came as a child when watching his father play.
“I remember chipping around the chipping green, being seven or eight years of age, my dad out playing on the Dunluce,” added McIlroy, who played a practice round on Tuesday.
“Portrush ... At least the golf club, has been a big part of my upbringing. It’s sort of surreal that it’s here.
“Even driving in yesterday, when you’re coming in on the road and you look to the right and you’ve got the second tee... I don’t know who was teeing off, maybe (American player) Tony Finau and someone else, (it was) sort of strange to see them here.
“But it’s really cool.”
Since McIlroy’s record the course has been renovated, with the seventh and eighth new holes.
But the 30-year-old said he did not have to spend too much time preparing on the course, such is his familiarity with it.
“I had dinner booked with a parent on Saturday night at 8:00, thinking I’m going to have to spend some time around the greens and just prepare.
“And I got on the road back home and rang them and said, ‘Can we move dinner up?’ Because I finished early. There’s no difference. It’s the same golf course.”
McIlroy has been in strong form this year, winning twice, including the Players’ Championship, and posting 11 top-10 finishes.
He also finished in a tie for second at the Open at Carnoustie last year.
“I think it’s probably the most consistent period of golf I’ve ever played,” the 2014 champion said.