Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr have most valuable squads in AFC Champions League

Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr have most valuable squads in AFC Champions League
Al-Hilal have the most expensive assets of all, worth a collective $71.76 million. (Twitter: @Alhilal_EN)
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Updated 21 September 2021

Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr have most valuable squads in AFC Champions League

Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr have most valuable squads in AFC Champions League
  • The 2019 winners’ players are worth $71.76m, while Riyadh neighbors Al-Nassr’s are valued at $71.33m

It is no surprise that Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr, the latter despite their managerial change last week, are two of the favorites to lift the AFC Champions League trophy on Nov. 23 — and not just because the final will be held in their home city of Riyadh.

If you follow the money, these rivals should be there or thereabouts. Of the eight teams left in Asia’s premier club competition, the two Saudi Arabian representatives have the most valuable squads. That is according to Transfermarkt, the website used around the world to track and rank such things.

Al-Hilal have the most expensive assets of all, worth a collective $71.76 million, just slightly more than Al-Nassr’s $71.33 million.

The 2019 Asian champions, who defeated Esteghlal 2-0 in the round of 16 of the AFC Champions League last week, have two players whose worth can be measured only by using eight figures. Moussa Marega, who arrived this year from FC Porto, has a value of $11.74 million, but the player worth the most is, unsurprisingly, Matheus Pereira at $17.60 million.

The Riyadh giants beat a number of clubs from the English Premier League and elsewhere to sign the Brazilian from West Bromwich Albion in August. The playmaker showed his worth against Esteghlal with a fine assist for the opening goal. His pass was converted by Bafetimbi Gomis, whose relatively low valuation of $1.88 million is influenced by his 36 years and short contract. The highest-rated local player in the squad is the talismanic Salem Al-Dawsari at $3.76 million. Next is central midfielder Mohammed Kanno at $3.05 million.

Al-Nassr have plenty of gems of their own after a busy 12 months or so in the transfer market. Injury-hit Argentine Pity Martinez has a $14.08 million valuation, which is not that much below the $17.60 million or so the nine-time Saudi champions paid out for the playmaker in 2020. This is something of a surprise given his inactivity in recent months. The club has so far had better luck with its more recent additions, with Talisca valued at $11.74 million, the same as Cameroonian striker Vincent Aboubakar. The highest-rated Saudi player is the excellent full-back Sultan Al-Ghanam at $3.17 million, $821,500 above midfielder Abdulfattah Asiri.

In terms of the AFC Champions League, none of the other six clubs can boast such expensive assets. Persepolis have reached two of the last three finals, but the Tehran giants have only one player worth seven figures. Mehdi Torabi headed the only goal against Istiklol of Tajikistan in the last minute of their second-round match and that can only add to his current valuation of $1.17 million. There is still talent in the squad, however. If Jalal Hosseini was a little younger than 39, then the center-back, who has made more than 100 appearances for Iran, would be worth his weight in gold.

Al-Wahda complete the West Asian quartet after their penalty shootout win in the all-UAE clash with Sharjah. According to Transfermarkt, Sharjah’s squad is valued at $36.44 million — almost three times more than Al-Wahda’s. If so, then coach Henk ten Cate has done well to take the Abu Dhabi club so far. Their two most valuable assets are Joao Pedro of Brazil and Syrian striker Omar Khribin, worth $3.52 million and $2.11 million, respectively. Again, if Ismail Matar was 28 instead of 38 then the winger would be one of the hottest and most expensive properties in Asian football. One also wonders how much more than $176,000 20-year-old midfielder Abdullah Hamad will be worth in the years to come.

Should Al-Nassr or Al-Hilal make it all the way to the final, then they will meet East Asian opposition and there is a good chance that the team will be from South Korea. The third most-valuable squad left in the competition belongs to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors at an estimated $25.56 million. The two-time Asian champions have the usual sprinkling of foreign players, with Russian striker Stanislav Iljutcenko worth $2.35 million and Gambian winger Modou Barrow just $352,000 less. There are also plenty of local players worth $1 million or more, signifying the strength in depth that Jeonbuk possess. There are current or former Korean internationals such as attackers Song Min-kyu, Han Kyo-won and Lee Seung-ki. At the back, former FC Augsburg center-back Hong Jeong-ho marshals the defense.

Jeonbuk’s rivals for the Korean title and defending Asian champions Ulsan Hyundai have players with valuations that reflect the talent at the club. There are no huge stars, with Georgian midfielder Valeri Qazaishvili the highest valued at $1.88 million. There are two local players who are worth almost as much, with talented midfielder Yoon Bit-garam and goalkeeper Cho Hyun-woo, who starred for Korea at the 2018 World Cup, valued at $1.76 million. Then there are young players such as Lee Dong-jun and Lee Dong-gyeong, who seem a little undervalued.

Pohang Steelers are one of two teams, along with Al-Hilal, with three Asian club championships under their belt. Despite having 39 players in their squad — one of the biggest in the entire 40-team tournament — the Steelers’ entire roster is worth only $12.65 million, about a sixth of those of Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr. No player is estimated to be worth even $1 million. Left-back Kang Sang-woo is the highest valued at $997,500.

Japan has one club left compared to Korea’s three. Nagoya Grampus’ most expensive player, for any club looking to buy, is Jakub Swierczok. The Polish striker scored a hat-trick in a 4-2 win over Daegu FC last week. There are some other talented strikers at the club, such as Yoichiro Kakitani and Mu Kanazaki, but they are valued lower as they are the wrong side of 30. The most expensive domestic player is 25-year-old center-back Shinnosuke Nakatani.

Fans in Saudi Arabia will get a chance to check out some of these talents in the coming weeks, allowing them to judge just how accurate such valuations are and whether they will increase or decrease.

Casper Ruud and Denis Shapovalov confirmed for the 2021 Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi

Casper Ruud and Denis Shapovalov confirmed for the 2021 Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi
Updated 8 sec ago

Casper Ruud and Denis Shapovalov confirmed for the 2021 Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi

Casper Ruud and Denis Shapovalov confirmed for the 2021 Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi
  • The two men join women’s US Open winner Emma Raducanu and Olympic champion Belinda Bencic in the line-up for the tournament

ABU DHABI: World No. 8 Casper Ruud and No. 13 Denis Shapovalov have been confirmed for the 2021 Mubadala World Tennis Championship taking place at the International Tennis Centre on December 16-18.

After a one-year absence due to the pandemic, the tournament will be held in the UAE capital for the 13th time with full capacity crowds.

Ruud, winner of the most ATP titles in 2021, and Shapovalov, who reached his first Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon, are the first two male players to be confirmed for this year’s event.

The pair, both regarded as future Grand Slam champions, join women’s US Open winner Emma Raducanu and her opponent on day one, Olympic gold medallist Belinda Bencic, in signing up to make their Abu Dhabi and tournament debuts. The remaining four players will be announced in the coming weeks.

“Announcing the players for the Championship is always a special moment and we have two special players in Casper and Denis,” said John Lickrish, CEO of Flash Entertainment, which is running the tournament. “Our goal is to bring the world’s best talent and build on the legacy of our championship and both players are the perfect fit.”

“They are young, supremely talented, have had successes this season and are great additions to the line-up alongside Emma and Belinda,” he said. “We are once again on track to bring the best-of-the-best from the world of tennis. Stay tuned for more announcements and rest assured the Championship is, as always, a must attend for all tennis fans.”

Norwegian ace Ruud is arguably the most improved player on the ATP tour this year, having won five tour titles in 2021, his latest victory coming at the San Diego Open earlier this October. It is a run that has made him the first Norwegian to break into the world’s top 10.

“I’ve had a great season this year and I’m excited to make my debut at this year’s Mubadala World Tennis Championship. I’m eager to keep improving next year, so Abu Dhabi in December provides a chance to play against the world’s best in preparation for another big season, while exploring a new destination and new cultures,” said Ruud.

Canadian star Shapovalov has also had an impressive year, achieving his best Grand Slam results in reaching the semi-finals at Wimbledon. In 2020 he was one of only two Canadian men to achieve an ATP Top-10 ranking.

“It’s always nice to play in a new city and get the opportunity to see and do different things. I’m excited to come to Abu Dhabi to see all it has to offer, and I’ve heard great things about the venue so I’m looking forward to playing against the best in the world and putting on a show for the fans,” said Shapovalov.

Rosberg X Racing wins Island X Prix in Sardinia to take commanding lead in inaugural Extreme E season

Rosberg X Racing wins Island X Prix in Sardinia to take commanding lead in inaugural Extreme E season
Updated 10 min 5 sec ago

Rosberg X Racing wins Island X Prix in Sardinia to take commanding lead in inaugural Extreme E season

Rosberg X Racing wins Island X Prix in Sardinia to take commanding lead in inaugural Extreme E season
  • The team established by former Formula 1 champion Nico Rosberg has now won three of the four races in electric SUV series

SARDINIA: Rosberg X Racing made it three wins from four races by securing victory at the Enel X Island X Prix in Sardinia to build a commanding lead in the inaugural Extreme E championship season.

The race was the fourth in the first-ever electric SUV series, which launched in April with the Desert X Prix at AlUla. That was followed by the Ocean X Prix in Dakar, Senegal, at the end of May and the Arctic X Prix in Greenland in August. The fifth and final race will be the Jurassic X Prix in Dorset, the UK, in December.

RXR drivers Johan Kristoffersson and Molly Taylor kept their heads in difficult conditions to seal a dramatic victory in Sardinia — for the team established by former Formula 1 champion Nico Rosberg — ahead of ABT CUPRA XE, who secured their best result of the season in second.

“It was pretty slippery out there, so it was a bit difficult to judge at first,” Taylor said. “From that point it was just trying to manage the risk and I think that is what we did really well. Johan brought it home and again it was just an amazing effort by all of the team. We had a very challenging weekend from our side, but we never gave up and are very happy to be the winners here.”

There was heartbreak, however, for long-time leaders in the final SEGI TV Chip Ganassi Racing. Sara Price’s crash on the second lap caused terminal damage and meant she had to stop on the track, ensuring the team could only finish as high as fourth on their finals debut. That meant JBXE were able to secure their third podium finish in succession with third place despite also suffering damage out on the course.

Bad luck once again befell fastest qualifiers X44 in the final, as Sebastien Loeb was forced to stop out on track and retire with broken steering. Loeb was running in second behind SEGI TV’s Kyle LeDuc despite driving with a slow puncture at the time of the stoppage, which meant the team fell even further behind winners and championship leaders RXR in the standings.

“When I took over the car, we were in second place and were pretty isolated,” RXR’s Kristoffersson said. “We had Mattias (Ekstrom) behind, but I knew it was going to be tricky to do the overtake. Then I heard that Sara had suffered broken steering out in front so I tried to get the car back in one piece by not taking any big risks. I think in this final that Molly really did the best job and it feels great to bring it home.”

In treacherous conditions, four of the five teams were able to get off the start line cleanly, although ABT CUPRA XE were left with plenty of work to do after Jutta Kleinschmidt stalled on the grid. It looked like X44 had staged a remarkable comeback to lead into the first corner, but were beaten spectacularly by LeDuc, who managed to get in front after using the alternative route.

“I was so concentrated on the start to make it well and light and then I pushed the car and nothing happened. I said, ‘Oh shoot, what is going on,’” said Kleinschmidt. “Then I pushed it, but everybody was gone, so I had to try to come back, which worked very well. We so nearly made it ahead of RXR, but unfortunately then Mattias lost the door so he had to slow down to not let the water come in, because then maybe you have mud inside and then you don’t see anything anymore. Finally, though, we are on the podium so we are happy.”

Final Result

1 Rosberg X Racing (Molly Taylor / Johan Kristoffersson) 2 laps (11.42)

2 ABT Cupra XE (Jutta Kleinschmidt / Mattias Ekstrom) +24.58s

3 JBXE (Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky / Kevin Hansen) +1 lap

4 SEGI TV Chip Ganassi Racing (Kyle LeDuc / Sara Price) +1 lap5

X44 (Sebastien Loeb / Cristina Gutierrez) +2 laps

Championship Standings

1 Rosberg X Racing (Johan Kristoffersson / Molly Taylor) 129 points

2 X44 (Sebastien Loeb / Cristina Gutierrez) 113 points

3 Andretti United Extreme E (Timmy Hansen / Catie Munnings) 93 points

4 JBXE (Kevin Hansen / Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky) 92 points

5 ABT CUPRA XE (Mattias Ekstrom / Jutta Kleinschmidt) 83 points

6 ACCIONA | Sainz XE Team (Carlos Sainz Snr. / Laia Sanz) 78 points

7 SEGI TV Chip Ganassi Racing (Kyle Leduc / Sara Price) 63 points8

8 Veloce Racing (Stephane Sarrazin / Emma Gilmour) 60 points

9 XITE ENERGY RACING (Oliver Bennett / Christine Giampaoli Zonca) 55 points

Dubai Moonlight Classic returns to Faldo Course as world’s only day-to-night tournament

Dubai Moonlight Classic returns to Faldo Course as world’s only day-to-night tournament
Updated 33 min 33 sec ago

Dubai Moonlight Classic returns to Faldo Course as world’s only day-to-night tournament

Dubai Moonlight Classic returns to Faldo Course as world’s only day-to-night tournament
  • Top international female players will take part in action at Emirates Golf Club on Oct. 27-29

DUBAI: The Dubai Moonlight Classic by EGA will put some of the best female golfers in the world under the spotlight when they tee off on the Faldo Course at Emirates Golf Club from Oct. 27to 29 in the only day-to-night tournament in world golf.

With the tournament free to enter for spectators, here are five reasons to watch the on-course action:

1. Sibling rivalry

Thai sisters Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn are in red-hot form this season, the pair winning the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational in July thanks to an impressive fourball 59 on the final day.

Aside from the shared win, younger sibling Ariya also claimed victory in the Honda LPGA Thailand and posted seven top-10 finishes this year. The 25-year-old is also a two-time Major winner, while older sister Moriya, 27, has six top-10 finishes to her name this year.

2. Golfing greats

Even to those who know little to nothing about golf, Dame Laura Davies will need no introduction. With a staggering 85 professional wins, the Englishwoman is a bona fide golfing legend and one of the game’s all-time greats. What is more, she plays golf with a smile on her face.

Scottish golfing legend Catriona Matthew hit the headlines earlier this year when she successfully captained the European Team to a Solheim Cup title defense. The 15-13 win over the US team at the Inverness Club in the face of a partisan home support in Toledo, Ohio gave Team Europe back-to-back wins, and the 52-year-old ranks the result right up there with her 11 professional tournament wins.

3. The next generation

While Matthew and Davies have seen it all, Chiara Noja is at the other end of the spectrum. The 14-year-old, playing her second Dubai Moonlight Classic, officially turned professional on the eve of the tournament, marking a major milestone in what could well be a promising career.

The Dubai-based golfer could learn a thing or two from current Race to Costa del Sol leader, Atthaya Thitikul. Still only 18, the Thai sensation became the youngest ever golfer to win a professional tournament at the Ladies European Thailand Championship in 2017 where she triumphed aged just 14 years, four months, and 19 days old.

4. Indian inspiration

There is not one but two Indian Olympian stars in the field at this year’s event. Aditi Ashok, a three-time winner on the Ladies European Tour, narrowly missed out on a medal at this year’s Games as she finished fourth in Tokyo. The 23-year-old will be one to watch on the Faldo for sure; she finished tied sixth at last year’s Dubai Desert Classic just two strokes behind eventual winner Minjee Lee.

Compatriot and left-hander Diksha Dagar, who received a late entry to this year’s Games, is a two-time winner on the LET. The 20-year-old also represented India at the 2017 Summer Deaflympics where she secured a silver medal.

5. Race to the top

It is not just the coveted Dubai Moonlight Classic title that is up for grabs at the Faldo – the tournament also counts toward the Race to Costa del Sol, the season-long competition to crown the No. 1 player on the LET.

With a $290,000 bonus pool for the top three finishers, there is plenty at stake.  Current leader Thitikul will be looking to further consolidate her grip on this year’s title and hoping for a third tournament win this season, but the Thai sensation will be joined by nearest challengers Sanna Nuutinen, Stephanie Kyriacou, Pia Babnik, and Marianne Skarpnord as the entire top five and eight of the top 10 tee it up at the Faldo.

Babar, Rizwan star as Pakistan break India jinx with rout

Babar, Rizwan star as Pakistan break India jinx with rout
Updated 24 October 2021

Babar, Rizwan star as Pakistan break India jinx with rout

Babar, Rizwan star as Pakistan break India jinx with rout
  • Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan take apart the Indian bowling

DUBAI: Captain Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan smashed unbeaten half-centuries as Pakistan crushed India by 10 wickets on Sunday to register their first win over their arch-rivals in a Twenty20 World Cup.
Chasing 152 for victory, Babar (68) and Rizwan (79) took apart the Indian bowling as they steered their team home with 13 balls to spare in Dubai.
Left-arm quick Shaheen Shah Afridi set up victory — their first over their neighbors in six attempts in the tournament — with figures of 3-31 that restricted India to 151-7 despite a valiant 57 from skipper Virat Kohli.
“This is the first time we’ve beaten India and I feel proud,” said Afridi.
“I knew it would be good for us if I got early wickets and that worked out. My idea was to get as much swing as possible.
“You don’t get a lot here, but I wanted to get those breakthroughs and gave it 100 percent. In my opinion the new ball was difficult to play, so credit goes to Babar and Rizwan.”
In the immediate aftermath of the victory, celebratory gunfire erupted in the Pakistani cities of Islamabad and Karachi.
Babar and Riwan went on the attack from the start with boundaries inside the powerplay — the first six overs when only two fielders are allowed outside the inner circle — to set the tone for their chase.
The dew did not help the Indian bowlers who regularly wiped the moisture off the ball with their towels while the openers kept the score ticking and got the occasional fours and sixes.
The batting pair kept up the charge as Babar reached his fifty with a six off spinner Varun Chakravarthy to get the Pakistan supporters dancing with joy.
Rizwan raised his fifty with a boundary off pace bowler Jasprit Bumrah and then raced past his captain, hitting six fours and three sixes in his 55-ball knock.
Babar hit the winning runs to turn a new page in Pakistan-India rivalry.
“We did not execute the things that we wanted to but credit is certainly due — they outplayed us today,” admitted Kohli.
“They were very professional with the bat as well but we’re certainly not a team that presses the panic button, it’s the start of the tournament, not the end.”
Earlier Afridi returned figures of 3-31 after a lethal first spell to hurt India who elected to field first in the Super 12s encounter watched by 20,000 in the stadium and a global TV audience of hundreds of millions of fans.
Kohli scored his 29th T20 fifty to help the team rebuild before being caught behind off Afridi as Pakistan dismissed the star batsman for the first time in a T20 World Cup game.
Afridi struck the first blow with an express delivery that swung in to trap Rohit Sharma lbw for a first ball duck.
Kohli walked in amid raucous applause from the Indian fans who were soon silenced by another ripper from Afridi in his second over.
The 1.98 meter bowler got KL Rahul with a delivery that came in sharply to take the batsman’s thigh pad and rattle the stumps.
Kohli and new batter, Suryakumar Yadav attempted to hit back with some positive shots as they smashed Afridi for a six each.
Wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan then pulled off a superb diving catch to cut short Yadav’s stay at the wicket with quick bowler Hasan Ali striking in his first over. Yadav made 11.
Rishabh Pant joined Kohli in the middle and the left-right batting pair rebuilt the innings and took India to 60-3 at the end of 10 overs.
Pant, a wicketkeeper-batsman who survived a close caught behind call off one of his attempted reverse sweeps, kept up the charge with adventurous strokeplay.
He hit Ali for two successive sixes but finally fell to Shadab Khan’s leg spin in the next over, top-edging a ball that went high and into the hands of the bowler.
Pant made 39 off 30 balls. Kohli stood firm to soak up the pressure to get to his 50 in 45 balls.

Salah hits hat-trick as Liverpool humiliate Man Utd

Salah hits hat-trick as Liverpool humiliate Man Utd
Updated 24 October 2021

Salah hits hat-trick as Liverpool humiliate Man Utd

Salah hits hat-trick as Liverpool humiliate Man Utd
  • Salah has now scored in 10 consecutive games
  • He completed his hat-trick with another cool finish five minutes into the second-half

MANCHESTER: Liverpool inflicted a historic hammering on Manchester United as Mohamed Salah scored a hat-trick in a 5-0 win at Old Trafford on Sunday, leaving Ole Gunnar Solskjaer clinging to his job.
For the first time in Premier League history, United trailed 4-0 at half-time and failed to score in a hopelessly one-sided contest. The Red Devils have now taken a run of one point from a possible 12 in the league.
Naby Keita started the rout before Diogo Jota doubled Liverpool’s lead inside 15 minutes.
Salah then took center stage to take his tally for the season to 15 goals in 12 appearances and become the top-scoring African player in Premier League history in the process.
To round off a miserable day for United, Paul Pogba lasted less than 15 minutes as a second-half substitute as he was shown a straight red card for a reckless lunge that forced Keita to leave the pitch on a stretcher.
Liverpool’s first victory in front of a crowd at Old Trafford under Jurgen Klopp moves them back above Manchester City into second, just a point behind leaders Chelsea.

By contrast, United’s hopes of a first league title since 2013 already look over as they remain eight points off the leaders.
That gap is likely to grow in the coming weeks with Tottenham and City to come in the next fortnight before an international break.
Whether Solskjaer will still be in charge come November is now in serious doubt as he has completely failed to form a balanced team from a talented collection of star players.
The Norwegian will wonder what might have been had Bruno Fernandes not fired over a glorious chance to open the scoring on three minutes.
But soon the defensive cracks that have blighted United’s season began to appear.
Salah teed up Keita to open the floodgates after just five minutes with a composed low finish past David de Gea.
United came from 2-0 down at the break to beat Atalanta 3-2 in the Champions League on Wednesday.
But former midfielder Paul Scholes’ warning after that match that Liverpool would be 4-0 up in 45 minutes if handed the same space to attack into came to fruition.

Jota justified his selection ahead of Sadio Mane as he stretched to turn in Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross to double Liverpool’s advantage.
Salah has now scored in 10 consecutive games and overtook Didier Drogba with his 105th Premier League goal when the Egyptian turned home Keita’s cut-back with the United defense all at sea.
Cristiano Ronaldo was lucky to avoid a red card as United’s frustrations bubbled over in first-half stoppage time when he was booked for lashing out at Curtis Jones in a sign of what was to come as the home side lost their discipline.
Liverpool inflicted further punishment before the break when Salah smashed home his 14th goal in 12 games this season at De Gea’s near post.
Salah then completed his hat-trick with another cool finish five minutes into the second-half after Jordan Henderson’s pass dissected the United defense once more.
Ronaldo thought he had pulled a goal back only for a VAR review to catch him in an offside position.
Another VAR check saw the end of Pogba’s brief cameo for a horrendous studs-up challenge on Keita that forced the Guinean off.
Solskjaer sacrificed Fernandes and Marcus Rashford to try and stop the bleeding as Old Trafford emptied during the final half hour.
De Gea ensured Liverpool failed to match their record margin of victory against United with an incredible save from Alexander-Arnold’s drive.
However, that did not subdue the mood among the traveling fans as they mockingly chanted for Solskjaer to remain in his job.