Saudi Arabia giants Al-Ahli release four foreign stars

Mark Milligan has only been at Al-Ahli for six months. (AFP)
Updated 06 July 2018

Saudi Arabia giants Al-Ahli release four foreign stars

  • Australia international Mark Milligan among those let go
  • Giannis Fetfatzidis, Claudemir and Leonardo also heading for the exit door

LONDON: Al-Ahli have moved to make room for more potential foreign signings by announcing they have terminated the contracts of four of their overseas players, including Australia World Cup player Mark Milligan.
The Jeddah giants announced in a brief statement on Thursday they had let go Milligan, Giannis Fetfatzidis, Claudemir and Leonardo with immediate effect. Saudi Pro League clubs are only permitted to have a maximum number of seven foreign players on their books — and the recent signings of Egyptian Abdallah El-Said and Spaniards Jose Manuel Jurado and Alexis Ruano took them up to full capacity.
The trimming of the squad will either be to free up space for new foreign recruits or to make sure they comply with new Saudi Arabian Football Federation rules that mean football clubs in the Kingdom will have to spend within their means from the start of the 2019-20 league season.

The decision to settle up the contract of Milligan represents the biggest surprise as Al-Ahli aggressively pursued him in January, signing him for $1 million from Melbourne Victory. He is reported to have signed a one-year deal with the option of a second year but he has lasted just six months after making only eight appearances. He played in all three of Australia’s World Cup group games and clearly enjoyed his time in the Kingdom judging by the comments he made earlier in the year.
“The fans there are fanatical,” he said in an interview with FourFourTwo. “I was fortunate enough to play my first game in the derby against Al-Ittihad and there were 62,000 fans there ... it was unbelievable.”
The club will have taken a financial hit on canceling the contract of Leonardo. The Brazilian, 26, joined for €4 million last year, signing a two-year deal with an option for two more seasons. He leaves after just one season, in which he scored ten goals in 19 games.
Claudemir, another Brazilian, also had time on his contract to run, albeit only a year after signing a two-year deal last summer. He joined from Club Brugge for £2.43m, but leaves after playing only 19 games.
The departure of Greece international Fetfatzidis is the least surprising. His three-year deal expired this summer and he is expected to rejoin Olympiacos.
The outgoings give new coach Pablo Guede more maneuverability in shaping his squad as he bids to go one better than Al-Ahli did last season in finishing runners-up by a point to Al-Hilal.

From near-death in Libyan desert to Saudi Arabia in 40 years: A history of the Dakar Rally

Updated 25 April 2019

From near-death in Libyan desert to Saudi Arabia in 40 years: A history of the Dakar Rally

  • Race will start in Jeddah and make a stop in Riyadh before ending in Qiddiya
  • Take a look back at the most momentous moments

LONDON: A new and exciting chapter in the prestigious history of the Dakar Rally is ready to be written as the world’s biggest and most challenging rally confirmed it will debut in Saudi Arabia in January 2020.

1977: Inspiration
Biker Thierry Sabine gets lost in the Libyan desert while competing in the Abidjan-Nice Rally. After being rescued from the sands on the verge of death, he vows to share the scale and magic of the desert with the whole world.

1978: A dream come true
On 26 December 1978, a field of 170 adventurers starts its 10,000-kilometer quest through Algeria, Niger, Mali, the Upper Volta, and Senegal. A total of 74 vehicles make it to the finish on Place de l’Indépendance in Dakar, with Cyril Neveu at the helm.

1983: Ickx on all fronts
Celebrities and the best drivers and riders in the world heed the call of the Dakar. The combination is a successful one, with the six-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans Jacky Ickx and comedian Claude Brasseur taking the spoils in the fourth edition.

1986: Tragedy strikes
Thierry Sabine and Daniel Balavoine die in a helicopter crash alongside pilot François-Xavier Bagnoud, journalist Nathalie Odent and radio technician Jean-Paul Lefur. Gilbert Sabine, the father of the creator of the race, takes over as director.

1992: Africa from north to south
The Dakar takes a break from the capital of Senegal to pit the competitors against the challenge of a lifetime. The drivers and riders have to tackle a route of almost 12,500 kilometers through 11 countries to cross Africa from one side to the other and reach Cape Town in South Africa. Stéphane Peterhansel (motorbikes) and Hubert Auriol (cars) stand atop the podium at the end of the Odyssey.

1998: Peterhansel rolls a six
The biker with a blue bandana emerges victorious from a clash of titans with Orioli and Arcarons to become the undisputed master of the category in the 1990s. His sixth win catapults him past Cyril Neveu as the event record holder. “Peter” has since added seven car victories to his tally!

2000: At the foot of the pyramids
The Dakar marks the turn of the century next to one of the seven wonders of the world: the Great Pyramid of Giza. Reigning champions Richard Sainct (motorbikes) and Jean-Louis Schlesser (cars) both manage to defend their titles against this prestigious backdrop.

2001: Miss Dakar
No one suspects that this will be the last Paris–Dakar. In contrast, everyone sees Jutta Kleinschmidt, who had made her Dakar debut in 1988 on a motorbike, become the first woman to win the rally, this time racing at the wheel of a Mitsubishi 4×4. She remains the only female winner of the event to date.

2009: Rising from the ashes in Buenos Aires
The Dakar picks itself up and crosses the Atlantic to rise from the ashes. A new era dawns with 4 million spectators turning out in force to cheer on the drivers and riders in the majestic landscapes of Argentina and Chile.

2012: Pacific Challenge
After three years with a route starting and ending in Buenos Aires, the organizers break the mold with a finish on the Pacific coast of Lima, Peru.

2014: Dizzying heights
Bolivia becomes the 28th country to host the Dakar. The Altiplano and Salar de Uyuni introduce a new test for the competitors: extreme altitude, which takes a toll on both their bodies and their machines.

2020: Chapter 3
In the wake of its first foray into Paraguay in 2017, the Dakar adds the 30th country to its list. In Saudi Arabia, the largest country on the Arabian Peninsula, the competitors will face challenges such as the “Empty Quarter,” a pristine expanse that has never been explored fully before.