Manchester United to pursue West Ham striker Marko Arnautovic

Jose Mourinho would like to bring Marko Arnautovic to Manchester United as he seeks to strengthen the English Premier League club's attack. (AFP)
Updated 25 May 2018
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Manchester United to pursue West Ham striker Marko Arnautovic

  • The Austria international scored 11 league goals at West Ham United last season
  • Sources close to the United manager said Arnautovic, 29, has impressed Mourinho

MANCHESTER: Jose Mourinho would like to bring Marko Arnautovic to Manchester United as he seeks to strengthen the English Premier League club's attack in the summer transfer window, Arab News has learned.
The Austria international — scorer of 11 league goals at West Ham United last season — is one of several options to add aggression, height and technical ability to United's squad for a campaign in which Mourinho will be under intense external pressure to bring the title back to Old Trafford.
Sources close to the United manager said Arnautovic, 29, has impressed Mourinho during a campaign in which he often operated as a solo striker.
With his ability to both create and convert chances, receive and hold the ball for team-mates, and play centrally or off either wing, the 1 meter 93 cm forward would offer a range of tactical options — either alongside Romelu Lukaku, or as cover for the only center-forward in United's current squad comfortable playing with his back to goal.
Mourinho is also conscious of United's struggle to present Marouane Fellaini with a contract offer that meets the Belgium midfielder's financial demands.
On the assumption that Fellaini is prepared to leave as a free agent, Mourinho wants to add a player with the aerial ability to bolster United's attacking and defensive options as and when the game situation requires it.
Brought to the Premier League in 2013 by Stoke City, Arnautovic knows the division well and has Champions League experience from his time at Werder Bremen. The Austrian is also familiar with Mourinho's training and tactical methods, having spent the 2009/10 season working with him at Inter Milan.
Recruited from Stoke for a guaranteed transfer fee of £20 million ($26 million) last summer, Arnautovic is contracted to West Ham for four more years. With the London club's co-owners the subjects of supporter protests, to which they responded with this week's high-cost appointment of Manuel Pellegrini as manager, recruiting the club's Player of the Year will not be an easy task.
Sources familiar with United's recruitment plans have told Arab News that Mourinho is also considering alternative signings.
One option would be a move for Mario Mandzukic, the Croatia international who can play all across attack and may be made available as part of an aggressive close-season rebuild requested by Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri.
In principle, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic would be a more direct replacement for Fellaini as the Serbia international has established his reputation in Serie A as a midfielder. Lazio, however, are asking €100 million ($117 million) for the 23-year-old, which United consider too steep an asking price for a player they have some reservations over.
Mourinho's preferred option as a new starting midfielder is Fred, the Brazil international who wants to move to the Premier League and whom United first attempted to sign from Shakhtar Donetsk last year.
Shakhtar rejected an offer of €50 million for the 25-year-old in the January window with both Manchester City and United in pursuit of the Brazilian, according to a source familiar with those negotiations.
While open to the player's sale this summer, the Ukrainian champions have so far insisted that a €60 million release clause is paid in full.


London clash between Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad a chance to showcase Saudi football to the world, says SAFF

Updated 16 August 2018
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London clash between Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad a chance to showcase Saudi football to the world, says SAFF

  • Super Cup final in UK capital can boost Saudi football's image around the world, claims SAFF official
  • SAFF defends number of foreign players allowed to play in Saudi Pro League claiming they help raise the standard.

LONDON: Saturday’s Super Cup final between Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad in London will not just be a great experience for the players, but also a chance to showcase the best of Saudi Arabian football on an international stage ahead of what should be a season to remember.
That is according to Luai Al-Subaiey, the General Secretary of the Saudi Arabia Football Federation (SAFF)ahead of the cup clash at Loftus Road, the home of Queen’s Park Rangers. The match is the traditional season curtain-raiser that features the champions and the winners of the King’s Cup. And with holding fixtures overseas a growing trend in modern football, Al-Subaiey told Arab News the decision to play the match in London was a no-brainer.
“Club teams from one country playing in another country is commonplace,” Al-Subaiey said.
“Teams from the English, German, Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese leagues played in the US this summer. The Spanish Super Cup was played in Morocco last week.
“We do it because it is good for our players to gather more international experience, to learn what it’s like to play in large overseas stadia, and of course, there is a large Saudi Arabian and Middle Eastern population living and working in London, (roughly) 300,000 people there.”
Al-Subaiey and Co. are confident that a great game in London this Saturday will be a springboard to a great season to come, especially with leading clubs in the country active in the international transfer market.
With eight overseas players allowed in Saudi Arabian teams in the upcoming Saudi Pro League season, there have been concerns that opportunities for local talent could be reduced. Al-Subaiey, however, believes that importing quality players can only be a good thing.
“Foreign players in the Saudi League will help improve the quality of football,” he said.
“But it also needs to be managed and balanced with the need to nourish domestic talent and provide our homegrown players with a pathway to the top.”
International stars such as Omar Abdulrahman have a part to play in the development of the Saudi Pro League and its ambition to be one of the leading leagues in the world. The United Arab Emirates playmaker joined Al-Hilal earlier in August in a season-long loan deal worth a reported $15 million — the second highest in football history.
As well as Abdulrahman, Al-Hilal have signed Peruvian international Andre Carrillo, who scored at the World Cup this summer, as well as former Barcelona defender Alberto Botia. Al-Nassr have bought Nigerian international Ahmed Musa from Leicester City and Nordin Amrabat from Watford.
“Has Wayne Rooney added something to DC United and the MLS? Has Omar Abdulrahman added to Al-Hilal? Of course, additions like these improve the quality of football,” Al-Subaiey said. “For the fans, these players bring excitement, and for the clubs and their league, these players bring a higher profile and greater attention — but there is something deeper too.”
For the official, what the best players bring is attitude and the utmost professionalism.
“Central to high performance sport is the right mindset. People like Rooney and Abdulrahman bring a great work ethic and possess great skills — but they also possess a professional mindset. And the young players who will work with them will see this, experience this — and learn from this.”
If all goes according to plan Saudi Arabia will qualify for the 2022 World Cup and perhaps even
progress to the second round for the first time since 1994. In Russia the Green Falcons started off with a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of the hosts in the opening game in Moscow. The team tightened up before losing narrowly to Uruguay, and then going on to beat Egypt 2-1 in the final game.
“We were absolutely delighted to be at the World Cup,” Al-Subaiey said.
“As you can tell with teams like Italy, Holland and the USA not qualifying and teams like Germany and Argentina not progressing (far in the tournament), the standard of play in international football is very high.
“Our particular group was quite challenging, and our initial game against host Russia, one of the biggest surprises of the World Group, was a difficult first match. Our final game, our win against Egypt, was a World Cup high point for our team. It was a match our young players and our national program can build on.”