Saudi Arabia cup winners Al-Ittihad sign Brazilian and welcome back Green Falcons star

Thiago Carleto has joined Al-Ittihad from Atletico Paranaense. (AFP)
Updated 20 July 2018

Saudi Arabia cup winners Al-Ittihad sign Brazilian and welcome back Green Falcons star

  • Left-back Thiago Carleto has joined the Saudi Pro League club
  • Fahad Al-Muwallad is back in training after his goal at the World Cup

LONDON: Al-Ittihad continue to bolster their King’s Cup winning squad, this time announcing they have signed Brazilian left-back Thiago Carleto.
The Saudi Pro League outfit made a significant double signing last week, recruiting Serbian international striker Aleksandar Pesic and Australia World Cup defender Matthew Jurman — and the Tigers have now moved to strengthen the left-back position by landing Carleto.
The 29-year-old joins from Atletico Paranaense and will bring with him the experience of playing for some of Brazil’s top clubs and in Spain for Valencia and Elche. He is set to join the rest of his new teammates in Austria where they are preparing for the new season under the guidance of new boss Ramon Diaz.
Diaz, the former Al-Hilal coach, has been hired to try and bring about a change in the Tigers’ fortunes. They have not won the league since 2009 and could only finish ninth last season. They did, however, win the King’s Cup for the ninth time, beating Al-Faisaly in a match that was overshadowed by the original referee Fahad Al-Mirdasi offering to take a bribe to influence the outcome of the match.
Since then, Al-Ittihad have been active in the transfer market. They have signed Saudi Arabia international defenders Hassan Muath Fallatah and Abdullah Al-Shammari, recruited youngster Jaber Issa and also extended the contract of goalkeeper Fawaz Al-Qarni until 2022.
Wanderson Ferreira de Oliveira, who is more commonly known as Valdívia, has joined on loan from Sao Paulo for a season.
Star winger Fahad Al-Muwallad has also been reintegrated back into the fold after his loan spell at Levante and then his World Cup exploits. He was given an extended break by coach Diaz and did not report for pre-season training in Austria until Sunday. He will be a key player for the team this season.
The 23-year-old became the first ever player from Saudi Arabia to play in La Liga when he came on as a substitute in Levante’s 3-0 away win at Leganes and he then went on to play in all three of the Green Falcons’ World Cup matches, coming on as a substitute against Russia and then starting the last two games against Uruguay and Egypt. He scored his tenth goal for his country in the 2-1 win over Egypt.
He will be eased slowly into the pre-season program, which features friendlies against Slovenian side
NK Krka, Al-Wahda and Al-Fujairah, the club once coached by Diego Maradona.
The Tigers start the competitive season with an Arab Club Champions Cup game against Al-Wasl on Aug. 7 followed by a Saudi Super Cup tie in London against Al-Hilal on Aug. 18.


Juventus coach Sarri: Cristiano is in another class

Updated 24 min 40 sec ago

Juventus coach Sarri: Cristiano is in another class

  • The 38-year-old is the only player to have scored at least league 15 goals in each of the last 14 seasons

MILAN: Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to form has coincided with Juventus taking a firm grip on Serie A.

Ronaldo did not score at all in November, but he scored twice as Juventus beat Parma 2-1 on Sunday to take his tally to 11 in his last seven league matches.

The win also put Juventus on course for a record-extending ninth straight Serie A title as the Bianconeri moved four points above Inter Milan. They were two points behind the Nerazzurri a month and a half ago.

Ronaldo has struggled with injury this season and missed three Serie A matches, playing through pain in others.

The 38-year-old Portugal forward has nevertheless scored 16 goals in 17 matches, becoming the first Juventus player to have that many goals after 20 matches since Omar Sivori in 1960.

Ronaldo is also the only player to have scored at least 15 goals in one of Europe’s top five leagues in each of the last 14 seasons.

“Cristiano is in another class,” Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri said. “Sometimes he poses you a little bit of a problem but he will solve 100 others for you.”

While Juventus managed to grind out results in November when Ronaldo wasn’t scoring, Inter struggle when their top scorers are not on form.

There have been three matches since December where neither Romelu Lukaku nor Lautaro Martínez have managed to find the back of the net. All three ended in draws.

The latest was a surprise 1-1 result at relegation-threatened Lecce on Sunday.

That is also down to a general drop in pace in the team as, prior to that, Inter had managed to win the previous four matches where Lukaku and Martínez didn’t score.

“The final result stems from the fact that we’re a team that needs to go at 200 kph. We cannot afford to be off the pace,” Inter coach Antonio Conte said. “It’s evident that if we go at an average pace, if we go into cruise speed, we become a normal team and aren’t able to get a result.”

Substitute

Mario Balotelli’s match lasted only seven minutes on Sunday and he could now find himself with even less playing time in the coming weeks.

Balotelli came on as a substitute in the 74th minute of Brescia’s 2-2 draw against Cagliari but shortly afterward was shown a yellow card for a high tackle and then immediately shown a second after repeatedly swearing at the referee.

Depending on what referee Antonio Giua writes in his report, Balotelli could be suspended for several matches.

The forward will certainly miss Brescia’s next match, against former team AC Milan.

“I think the yellow card was too harsh. Mario didn’t feel it was right, and his protests didn’t seem excessive to me,” Brescia coach Eugenio Corini said. “It’s a pity because he came on with the desire to make us win the match.”

Balotelli was banned for the first four matches of the Serie A season following a red card in his last match with Marseille last season.

“It’s incredible how one episode can always drastically change from too negative or too positive everyone’s opinion on the character or professionalism of a person,” Balotelli wrote on his Instagram story after the match. “I will continue with my daily work this time, too. It’s not a problem. You can continue to judge me as you wish.”