Turki Al-Alshaikh: More Saudi stars will make move to Europe following loaning out of nine players to Spanish clubs

Al-Hilal winger Salem Al-Dawsari has been snapped up by La Liga club Villarreal
Updated 22 January 2018

Turki Al-Alshaikh: More Saudi stars will make move to Europe following loaning out of nine players to Spanish clubs

DUBAI: Turki Al-Alshaikh, head of Saudi Arabia’s General Sport Authority (GSA), believes the loaning out of nine Saudi Arabian players to Spanish clubs is just the start and will pave the way for more Saudi stars to head to Europe and represent the country.
At a joint press conference with Spain’s Liga de Fútbol Profesional (LFP) held in Riyadh on Sunday night the GSA announced that the nine players had completed loan moves to clubs in the Spanish first and second divisions.
The deals are part of an agreement signed between the two parties in October last year, aimed at developing football in the Kingdom.
Commenting on the transfers, Al-Alshaikh said it was “an opportunity for the players to learn what it is to be real professionals, gain experience and represent Saudi Arabia abroad.”
Al-Alshaikh was central to the completion of the transfers, laying the foundations for scouts from Spanish clubs to visit Saudi Arabia to select players. He sees the loans as being the first part of what he hopes will result in a host of Saudi stars make the move to the big European leagues.
“I have infinite faith in the ability of our players. It is our role, all of us, to back them in this experience, which will be the beginning of many more transfers to Europe,” Al-Alshaikh said.
While the benefits of the move for the national team during World Cup year are easy to see, there have been concerns from clubs at losing their key players for the remainder of the season.
Al-Alshaikh added: “This is a big step, a substantial move forward for Saudi sports. We have to put the national team interests above everything else.” 
Of the nine to make the move to Spain three are key men who played a huge part in getting the Green Falcons to this summer’s World Cup.
Al-Hilal winger Salem Al-Dawsari was snapped up by Villarreal, who are currently fifth in the La Liga table, while Al-Nassr playmaker Yahya Al-Shehri joined mid-table side Leganes. Relegation-battling Levante boosted their ranks with Fahad Al-Muwallad, the Al-Ittihad attacker who scored the goal that beat Japan and got Saudi Arabia to Russia. The three are expected to form the heart of the Green Falcons attack this summer.
For the Spanish clubs, the loans are a way to gain exposure in a little-tapped market.
“With Yahia Al-Shehri's arrival, the club has improved its squad and also gained visibility in the Arab world,” Leganes said in a statement.
Another three promising players who are on the fringes of the Saudi Arabia squad have also made the move to Spain. Al-Fateh midfielder Nouh Al-Mousa was not part of Bert van Marwijk’s squad in the qualifiers, but has established himself as a candidate for the team heading to Moscow with strong performances in the Gulf Cup. Al-Mousa signed for Valladolid, currently ninth in the Spanish second division.
Joining Al-Mousa in signing for Segunda Division mid-table teams are Al-Shabab duo Abdulmajeed Al-Sulaihem, who moved to Madrid-based Rayo Vallecano and Abdullah Al-Hamdan who was signed by Sporting Gijon.
Completing the nine players are three youngsters, identified through the National Scouting Committee as Saudi-born talents and have since been naturalized. Youngsters Ali Al-Nimr, Jabir Mustafa and Marwan Othman were all born in Saudi Arabia to expat parents, and have been identified as talents who could serve the national team in the future. The trio were signed by Riyadh-based Al-Shabab before being loaned out to Spanish clubs. Al-Nimr joins second division side Numancia while Mustafa and Othman will play for the B teams of Villarreal and Leganes respectively.
THREE PLAYERS ARAB NEWS EXPECTS TO SHINE IN SPAIN
YAHYA AL-SHEHRI — LEGANES: At 164 cm, the Al-Nassr playmaker may lack the physique to match his European counterparts, but Al-Shehri makes up for it with his eye for the killer pass and silky dribbling skills. The 27-year-old can function centrally or wide on either flank, and by joining Leganes he is at a club where finding first-team football will not be a rarity. Al-Shehri has what it takes to grab this chance in impress in La Liga.
FAHAD AL-MUWALLAD — LEVANTE: Arguably the highest profile player of the nine, Al-Muwallad’s pace and energy can add much-needed flair to Levante’s attack. The Valencian side has the second-lowest goal tally in the top division, and if Al-Muwallad can replicate the form that saw him score 11 goals in 20 matches for Al-Ittihad last season, he will quickly become a fan favorite.
NOOH AL-MOUSA — VALLADOLID: Al-Hilal’s Salem Al-Dawsari may be the bigger name on the list, but it is Al-Mousa who can surprise many with his abilities. The combative midfielder made his name at his hometown club Al-Fateh, and following impressive performances in the league, he earned his first Saudi Arabia call-up under Edgardo Bauza. Al-Mousa’s physicality in defensive midfield and his composure on the ball are qualities that can serve him well at second division side Valladolid.


Dates and bigger prize money purse announced for Saudi Cup 2021

Updated 33 min 17 sec ago

Dates and bigger prize money purse announced for Saudi Cup 2021

  • Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al-Faisal, chairman of the JCSA, made the announcement and said he was keen to build on the success of the inaugural Saudi Cup in February 2020

RIYADH: The Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia (JCSA) on Tuesday announced the return of the world’s richest horse race, the $20 million Saudi Cup, as well as a prize money increase and a new international race at the February 19-20 event.

At a series of press events held via video link from King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh, Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al-Faisal, chairman of the JCSA, made the announcement and said he was keen to build on the success of the inaugural Saudi Cup in February this year.

“It’s hard to overstate the success of Saudi Cup 2020 when you consider that in year one of a brand-new international racing event, we attracted some of the very best horses, trainers and jockeys in the world,” he said. “We witnessed 22 individual Group or Grade 1 winners, who had accumulated an impressive 34 wins at that level between them. That would be an excellent statistic for even the most well-established race meetings in the world, let alone to have that calibre in year one.”

Prince Bandar also revealed that the prize money across the whole Saudi Cup event next year would increase from $29.2m to $30.5m.

Next year's event is scheduled a week earlier than the inaugural event, and the free-to-enter, free-to-run 1,800 meter Saudi Cup with a purse of $20 million remains the highlight of the eight-race card, which now features a boost to the prize money of three dirt races on the undercard.

The 1,600m Saudi Derby sees a prize money increase from $800,000 to $1.5m. The Obaiya Cup for Purebred Arabians held over 2,000m will now be worth $2 million, up from $1.9 million while the purse for The Jockey Club Local Handicap will double to $1 million up from $500,000.

The International Jockeys Challenge, held the Friday before the Saudi Cup will once again see 14 of the world’s best jockeys, seven women, five international men and two Saudi-based jockeys, compete.

Lisa Allpress became the first woman to win a race in Saudi Arabia this year when the four-time New Zealand champion claimed the opening leg of the challenge. The overall title was won by another woman, Swiss jockey, Sibylle Vogt with French female rider, Mickaelle Michel second and US Hall of Famer, Mike Smith third. Each of the four legs of the Jockeys Challenge are again worth $400,000 in prize money and contested on the dirt track.

*****

READ MORE: Saudi Cup: All eyes on Riyadh as the world’s most valuable horse race debuts

Jewel in Kingdom’s sporting crown Juddmonte Farms eyeing Saudi Cup glory

A day at the races: Stylish guests wow at the Saudi Cup

*****

The first staging of the Saudi Cup weekend showcased a number of “firsts” for the Kingdom and saw the JCSA plan and deliver two days of top class racing. As well as raising the profile of Saudi Arabia as a racing and sporting venue, the event successfully introduced the country’s first turf track, a surface acclaimed by jockeys and trainers, and celebrated the first female jockeys not only to ever ride under rules in the country, but also to win races.

In 2020 the Saudi Cup card saw 64 foreign runners, representing ten different countries, take on 26 locally trained rivals in the seven international races. Five of these races witnessed overseas victories. 

The event in 2021 will also see the running of a new race, held on Friday — the $500,000 Saudi International Handicap will be held over 2,100m of the turf track.

Horses must be trained in a country which is not included among the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities’ Part I nations, subject to quarantine protocols being in place and must have had at least one run in their trainer’s country prior to entry.

Locally trained horses must have had a least one run in Saudi Arabia by February 1, 2021.

“With the changes we bring to Saudi Cup 2021 we hope to offer the racing and sporting public the most interesting and intriguing race cards possible, whether they are able to be with us in person or watching from home,” said Prince Bandar.

“The 2020 event was a great beginning but now we turn our attention to year two and to taking on board the lessons we learned from year one. We will be using that knowledge to steer the JCSA and the Saudi Cup weekend to new heights, building regional and international bridges within the industry to engage with global racing fans, inspire domestic involvement and enhance not only our own offering but that of racing as a global sport.”

Tom Ryan the JCSA’s Director of Strategy and International Racing said: “To have the sport’s key players bring their horses to an untested and unproven event and furthermore to see the progressive form that those horses have displayed since is something for the JCSA to be proud of. The strength of form to come out of our event acts as a great advert to trainers and owners next year.

“Mishriff, trained in England by John Gosden, would be one we could point to having won his next three starts following his second place in the Saudi Derby, including the Group 1 Prix du Jockey-Club [French Derby].

“Call The Wind, who won the Red Sea Turf Handicap was a Group 3 winner on his first outing back in France and followed up with a runner up spot in a Group 2 and another Group 3 win.

“In addition, a number of horses have held their form since the Saudi Cup race itself. As well as the winner, Midnight Bisou, Tacitus, McKinzie, Chrysoberyl and Magic Wand have all won Group races on either a first or second appearance and indicate that horses travel well to the Saudi Cup and even return to their global campaigns having come on for the run.

Ryan acknowledged the significant global challenges to holding international sporting events saying: “It is nevertheless a difficult time to stage large-scale global events and we know that now the real hard work begins. We will keep the lines of communication open and work closely with the authorities as we seek to hold this event in the best and safest way possible.”