Al-Hilal face fight to keep star Syrian Omar Khribin
Al-Hilal face fight to keep star Syrian Omar Khribin
Big-spending Hebei CFFC, Shanghai Shenhua and Tianjin Quanjian are in the running to sign one of the Middle East’s hottest properties in the summer transfer window with Arab News understanding that the 24-year-old is open to a move east.
Al-Hilal signed the forward on a permanent deal in January 2017, for around $11.5 million. His performances have gone from strength to strength ever since, for both club and country.
“A fee of around $15 million is being talked about, though it would take place in the summer at the earliest,” a senior official at the Syrian Football Association told Arab News.
Khribin spearheaded Syria’s attempt to qualify for this summer’s World Cup, and his performances on the Road to Russia, as well in as the 2017 AFC Champions League, have won him plenty of admirers in Beijing, Shanghai and elsewhere.
In the final round of qualification, Syria were placed in the same group as China and performed well, narrowly missing out on an automatic spot in Russia to finish third behind South Korea, before losing in a playoff to Australia.
Khribin was the leading goal scorer in the AFC Champions League, scoring 10 goals as the Riyadh giants reached the final only to lose narrowly to Urawa Reds of Japan in November.
Such form saw him named Asian Player of the Year, beating off strong competition from China’s own Wu Lei and Omar Abdulraham of the UAE.
“There are a number of Chinese clubs looking at the situation,” a leading Chinese agent told Arab News.
“Some already have a full quota of foreign players so the summer transfer window would be the earliest they could make a move, though there is also the possibility of waiting until the end of the season.”
It has become more difficult for Chinese Super League teams to sign foreign players for more than $7 million, after the implementation of the so-called “transfer tax” in 2017. Clubs that are in debt must pay an amount equal to the transfer fee into a football development fund.
Khribin would not be the first Syrian in the league. Firas Khatib signed for Shanghai Shenhua in 2013 and earned plenty of fans with his goals and all round attacking play in the season-and-a-half spell in China’s commercial capital.
Al-Hilal declined to comment.
FIVE OTHER ARABS WHO COULD SHINE IN CHINA
OMAR AL-SOMA: Another Syrian forward who plays his club football in Saudi Arabia and also has lots of admirers across Asia. Chinese clubs are perhaps the only ones able to afford his talents.
ALI MABKHOUT: The 27-year-old striker has spent his entire career with Al-Jazira in the UAE. He could be tempted east by the prospect of a new challenge.
FAHAD AL-MUWALLAD: The exciting winger has been sent to Spain for some La Liga experience with Levante, and once that stint is over, his exciting talents would go down well in China.
MOHAMED ELNENY: The defensive midfielder has been with Arsenal since 2016, but while the Eygptian has made more than 30 appearances for the Gunners, he is not an automatic starter.
HUMAM TARIQ: The talented Iraqi playmaker has been around for years despite being just 21. He lacks a little consistency and a move to China could do him good.
Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir ‘100 percent ready’ to face England, says coach
- Left-armer is fit after a knee injury
- “He’s fine, he’s ready to go,” says team coach Mickey Arthur
LONDON: Pakistan spearhead Mohammad Amir is “100 percent ready” for the first Test against England at Lord’s starting on Thursday despite a knee injury, according to team coach Mickey Arthur.
The left-arm fast bowler was seen stretching out his right knee as Pakistan beat Test debutants Ireland by five wickets during a one-off match in Malahide, Dublin concluded last week.
Pakistan bowling coach Azhar Mahmood suggested Amir had suffered a recurrence of a “chronic” problem.
But head coach Arthur, speaking to reporters at Lord’s on Tuesday, had no qualms about the fitness of Amir.
“He’s perfect, 100 percent,” Arthur insisted. “He’s fine, he’s ready to go.”
As for Amir, missing Pakistan’s final warm-up match ahead of the two-Test England series, last weekend’s drawn match against Leicestershire, Arthur added: “It was his rotation. (Mohammad) Abbas sat out the first (tour) game, Hasan (Ali) sat out the second, so he sat out the third.”
Amir was the hottest property in world cricket after bursting on the scene as a teenager in 2009 and at 18 he was the youngest bowler to have taken 50 Test wickets.
But his world was turned upside down in 2010 when he became involved in a spot-fixing scandal after deliberately bowling no-balls during the Lord’s Test against England — an incident that would eventually see him sent to prison by an English court and given a five-year ban by the International Cricket Council.
Amir’s first 14 Tests saw him take 51 wickets at just a fraction over 23 apiece, figures that had him on course to be an all-time great.
But the 17 Tests since his comeback two years ago have seen him take 49 wickets at a more expensive average of 34.91
Amir, and Pakistan for that matter, have not been helped by the fact that those 17 Tests since 2016 have also seen 16 catches dropped off his bowling.
The stigma of his spot-fixing exile has started to fade, with Amir playing for Pakistan during their 2-2 draw in a four-Test series in England two years ago.
He also starred for Essex as they won English domestic cricket’s first-class County Championship title last season.
Now the 26-year-old Amir is set to be the leader of an inexperienced Pakistan attack.
England, who didn’t manage a single win during their recent seven combined Tests in Australia and New Zealand, collapsed to 58 all out in Auckland in March as Kiwi left-arm quick Trent Boult took six wickets.
And Arthur backed Amir to do similar damage
“I think Mohammad Amir is the finest exponent of pace and swing when he gets it 100 percent right,” Arthur said.
“We’ve used that spell that Trent Boult bowled in Auckland. We’ve had a look at his lengths.
“We believe he (Amir) bowls incredibly well at left-handers and there will be three left-handers (Alastair Cook, Mark Stoneman and Dawid Malan) in the (England) top four.
“He’s ready, I just hope it goes really well for him because he’s been unlucky at times with the amount of dropped catches.
“He’s ready, he’s determined, he’s fit, he’s strong, he’s excited, he’s in a very good place at the moment.”
Arthur is unusual in having served as the head coach of three leading nations — his native South Africa, Australia and Pakistan.
But he was adamant he had no desire to replace Trevor Bayliss when the Australian steps down as England coach next year.
“No, I’m very happy,” Arthur said. “I’d like to keep going with Pakistan for as long as they will have me because it’s unfinished business for us at the moment. This is a very young cricket team and I worry if we move on what happens to these guys. Their fitness regime is outstanding, they are training hard and they are enjoying their cricket. I’m very, very happy with where I am at the moment,” he insisted.