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.
Jorge Jesus ready for a challenge at Al-Hilal
- Portuguese boss pipped Al-Ahli to the title last season.
- Jesus excited for the new season and ready to defend Saudi Pro League crown.
LONDON: Al-Hilal coach Jorge Jesus is looking forward to his first season in charge of the Saudi Arabia giants as the defending champions look to defend their league title in the forthcoming campaign that kicks off in two weeks’ time.
The 64-year-old joined the Riyadh club in June and is charged with leading the two-time continental champions into a new era under club president Sami Al-Jaber, appointed in April.
Working outside his native Portugal for the first time in a distinguished career, the former Benfica and Sporting Lisbon boss is happy to have made Al-Hilal his home away from home.
“I have come to a country that has a different culture in football and also in many aspects,” Jesus told Arab News ahead of last night’s Super Cup clash against Al-Ittihad in London.
“I have to get used to that culture and also the players. There were opportunities to go overseas before but this is the one that seemed most exciting and challenging and I am really looking forward to the season starting. I hope that I can do a great job and bring trophies to Al-Hilal. This is my job and this will also help the reputation of Portuguese coaches around the world.”
After time in charge of Benfica — where he won three Portuguese league titles — and Sporting Lisbon, Jesus understands that there is a similar expectation of success at the 15-time Saudi Arabia champions.
“I have worked at big clubs in my career and Al-Hilal are a big club,” Jesus said.
“This is a club with lots of fans and these are fans with a huge amount of passion and love for their team. I have seen this already whether it is waiting at the airport for new players in the middle of the night or greeting the players for the new season. They are special and it is my job to have a team that excites the fans and brings success.”
The Riyadh giants won the Saudi Pro League title in May, pipping Al-Ahli to the post thanks to victory on the final day of the season. Like a number of clubs in the country, the champions have been active in the international transfer market with each team now allowed to sign eight foreign players.
Refusing to rest on their laurels, the champions have signed Peruvian international Andre Carrillo — who is reunited with his former boss from Sporting Lisbon — former Barcelona defender Alberto Botia and, most dramatically last week, 2016 Asian Player of the Year Omar Abdulrahman.
“In football you have to keep trying to strengthen and there is no better time to do so than when you are winning trophies. We should always be looking to improve,” Jesus said.
“We have brought in some good players and I think the fans will be excited to see them in action when the season starts. It is not only us. Other teams have also been strengthening. This is good for the league and it means that standards will be getting better for everyone.
“We have a few injury concerns but overall we are feeling good,” added Jesus.
“We had a good time in pre-season training and I have come to know the players. They have a desire to improve and to be as good as they can be. We will try to win every competition that we enter. This is what being at a big club is all about. Now we are focused on the season. We are ready and want to get off to a good start.