Saudi Arabia giants Al-Ahli sign former Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid star

Jose Manuel Jurado is welcomed to the club by an Al-Ahli official. (@ALAHLI_FCEN)
Updated 26 June 2018

Saudi Arabia giants Al-Ahli sign former Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid star

  • Jose Manuel Jurado joins on a two-year deal
  • Two more sign for last season's runners-up

LONDON: Al-Ahli have signalled their intention to wrestle the Saudi Pro League title away from Al-Hilal by making three further signings, including a former Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid playmaker.
The Jeddah giants agonizingly finished second to Al-Hilal by a solitary point on the final day of last season, meaning Al-Hilal have now won the domestic title for the past two seasons and a record 15 times in total.
Al-Ahli last won the crown in 2016 and they have been very proactive and aggressive in the transfer market in a bid to bring it back to King Abdullah Sports City.
They launched their mini transfer spree by recruiting José Manuel Jurado on a two-year deal. The Spaniard started his career at Real Madrid, moved to Atletico Madrid where he won the Europa League and has enjoyed spells in Russia and England. The 31-year-old has played for Quique Sanchez Flores, who was contacted about the Al-Hilal job, three times in his career, most recently at Espanyol. He is capable of playing on either flank but is most effective in the No. 10 role. He could prove a very useful foil for Omar Al-Soma, who has been the league’s top-scorer in three of the past four seasons.
Another recruit from Spain is Alexis Ruano Delgado. The 32-year-old has also signed a two-year contract. He is a veteran of La Liga having played for Valencia, Sevilla, Getafe, Malaga and Alaves, with Valencia once paying €6 million ($7 million) for him. His career peaked when he scored one of the goals in Valencia’s 2008 Copa Del Rey final win. Delgado is set to form a new-look partnership with Motaz Hawsawi at the heart of the Al-Ahli defense.
The third signing player to join is Nouh Al-Mousa. The holding midfielder moves from Al-Fateh has signed a contract until 2022. He will dovetail in the middle of the park with fellow new recruit Abdallah El-Said who has joined from Egypt giants Al-Ahly on a two-year contract. However, Al-Ahli will be concerned that El-Said came off injured against Saudi Arabia in the World Cup game and new coach Pablo Guede will be eager to find out the severity of the problem.
As well as making four new signings, Al-Ahli have also moved swiftly to tie Al-Somah, Mohamed Al-Fateel and Hawsawi to new deals. One issue they will need to be mindful of is that the captures of Jurado and Delgado mean they now have the maximum number of seven foreign players on their books. Any further foreign recruits will mean cutting loose one of Mark Milligan, Al-Somah, Giannis Fetfatzidis, Claudemir and Leonardo.

Simona Halep positive despite Dubai defeat by Belinda Bencic

Updated 21 February 2019

Simona Halep positive despite Dubai defeat by Belinda Bencic

  • Former world No.1 blames three-set loss on tiredness after nine matches in 13 days.
  • Halep has high hopes for the rest of 2019, saying her game is in good shape.

LONDON: Simona Halep is still certain a good year lies in store for her despite losing to Belinda Bencic in the Dubai quarterfinals.
The Romanian former world No. 1 was the favorite to win her second title in the emirate but ran out of steam as her Swiss opponent ran out 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 winner.
It was Halep’s ninth match in just 13 days and she admitted tiredness had caught up with her.
“It was really difficult physically. I was tired,” the world No. 2 said.

Bencic came from a set down to beat the favorite in the last-eight encounter in Dubai. (AFP) 

“After the second set, I felt like I’m getting cramping a little bit. It’s normal. I was sweating a lot.”
While, her fatigue was clear for all to see, Halep was not using it as an excuse, admitting Bencic, who has now beaten her in two of their three matches, was the deserved winner.
“Yeah, she played well. She played very well. In the end, she was a little bit stronger,” the Romanian said.
Having lost in the Qatar final last weekend and failed to make the last-four in Dubai you might think Halep would be disappointed with her Middle East stint. She was, however, far from glum and revealed she is looking forward to landing more titles to add to her collection during the rest of the year.

Cheerio from Halep after her defeat to the Swiss. (AFP) 

“I think were three good weeks. Tough weeks. A lot of tension, a lot of pressure. Also the Fed Cup,” she said.
“I take only positive things. I had great matches. My level is good. Physically also I’m good. But day by day I had to play, so is not easy.
“I’m confident for the next tournaments.”