Saudi players could head to Europe’s big leagues

Saudi captain Osama Hawsawi has experience of playing abroad. (Reuters)
Updated 22 October 2017

Saudi players could head to Europe’s big leagues

LONDON: The Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) is planning to boost its preparations for next year’s World Cup by loaning out as many members of the national team as possible to European clubs in the January transfer window to gain top-level experience, according to reports.
The General Sports Authority and the Football Federation last week signed a deal with La Liga in a bid to take football in the Kingdom to the next level. It is being reported, by Middle East website Ahdaaf, that part of the agreement aims to accelerate the transfer of top Saudi players to La Liga teams ahead of the World Cup in Russia, the first the national team has qualified for in 12 years.
Scouts from several La Liga clubs are expected to arrive in the Kingdom over the next few weeks to take a closer look at the players listed for loan by the SAFF as part of the agreement. A shortlist of players likely to be on the plane to Russia next summer has been drawn up and discussions with clubs and leagues in Europe apparently commenced last month.
The Saudi FF’s plan is targeting placing their players with mid-table Spanish and Italian clubs, but are receptive to negotiating with well-heeled clubs elsewhere on the continent.
Ittihad winger Fahad Al-Muwallad is believed to have already secured a loan move to an unnamed Spanish club while representatives of Serie A side Torino reportedly watched Al Ahli center-back Motaz Hawsawi in his side’s 3-0 victory over Jeddah rivals Ittihad at the weekend. Captain Osama Hawsawi already has experience abroad having played for Anderlecht in Belgium in 2012.
Scouts from various European clubs will also be present at the Portugal vs Saudi Arabia friendly scheduled on November 10 in the Portuguese city of Leiria to assess prospective targets ahead of the January transfer window.

Man City’s court triumph set to intensify race for top 4 places in Premier League

Updated 14 July 2020

Man City’s court triumph set to intensify race for top 4 places in Premier League

  • The fight for a top-five finish has reverted back to needing to be in the top four to join champion Liverpool and City, already secured in second place

LONDON: Manchester City’s success in overturning its Champions League ban on Monday has huge ramifications on the Premier League and the remaining two teams that will qualify for Europe’s top club competition.

Chelsea, Manchester United and Leicester — and maybe Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield United, too — are now fighting for two qualifying spots instead of three with two weeks of the season remaining.

The fight for a top-five finish has reverted back to needing to be in the top four to join champion Liverpool and City, already secured in second place, in earning tens of millions of dollars in UEFA prize money next season.

The most concerned team is likely to be Leicester.

In the top four since September — and, in December, even looking like the most realistic title challenger to Liverpool — Leicester have imploded, collecting only two wins from their last 11 league games stretching back to the end of January.

After losing to relegation-threatened Bournemouth 4-1 on Sunday, Leicester will find themselves  in fifth place if Man United beat  Southampton on Monday.

United appears much more likely to secure a top-four finish and return to the Champions League after a season’s absence.

With four straight wins ahead of the Southampton game, United are the form team in the league and also has the most benign remaining schedule with upcoming matches against Crystal Palace and West Ham before what could be a winner-takes-all game game at Leicester on the final weekend of the season.

Making it all the more intriguing is the fact that another final-day match is between Chelsea and Wolves.

Chelsea is currently in third place, one point ahead of Leicester, but will drop into fourth if United beat  Southampton.

A victory over already-relegated Norwich on Tuesday appears pivotal for Chelsea, considering its last two games are at Liverpool — a team chasing records to cap its title-winning season — and then Wolves, who have gained a reputation for beating the top teams over the last two years.

Wolves are in sixth place, four points off the top four, so the ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport has come as a blow to their Champions League ambitions.

Indeed, Wolves’ best chance of qualifying for the competition is now to win the Europa League, which earns entry to the Champions League. The team coached by Nuno Espirito Santo has reached the last 16 of the Europa League and will play the second leg of its match against Olympiakos next month, with the score at 1-1 after the first leg.

Likewise, seventh-place Sheffield United needed City to lose its appeal at sport’s highest court to stand a realistic chance of a finish in the Champions League positions, a prospect that would have seemed fanciful for a team that was widely tipped for relegation at the start of the season.

Europa League qualification will be Sheffield United’s target now, with seventh place possibly earning that reward if Manchester City, Manchester United or Chelsea win the FA Cup.