10 foreign signings that could light up new Saudi Pro League season

10 foreign signings that could light up new Saudi Pro League season
clubs have been busy bringing in new players from around the world.
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Updated 22 August 2022

10 foreign signings that could light up new Saudi Pro League season

10 foreign signings that could light up new Saudi Pro League season
  • With 2022-23 campaign only days away, new additions should bring plenty of experience, quality to clubsSPL

RIYADH: The new Saudi Professional League season is just days away and as expected, clubs have been busy bringing in new players from around the world. Here are 10 of what could be the most significant foreign signings.

Tarek Hamed (Al-Ittihad)

There is no doubt that Al-Ittihad faded at the end of the last season when a first title was within sight. That run of one win from the last six games will not be forgotten and is one reason why the Jeddah club have hired Nuno Espirito Santo. The coach has years of experience in the top leagues of Europe, and it is hoped that his pragmatic style will enable Al-Ittihad to take the next step.

One of his first incoming players is Tarek Hamed, who has been a defensive midfield legend for Zamalek of Egypt, winning the league twice and establishing himself as a regular international.

He should add experience, intelligence, energy, and a winning mentality to the team that came so close last season.

David Ospina (Al-Nassr)

Signing the goalkeeper was a statement of intent from new coach Rudi Garcia as the club, who had been close to landing Egypt’s Mohamed Abou Gabal, went South American instead.

Ospina has come from Napoli so has been playing at the highest levels in world football. It will be fascinating to see what effect he has, not just in terms of making saves, but how he commands his defense and works with the backline. Ospina has so much experience both at club and international level with Colombia, that he could make a real difference to an ambitious team.

Djamel Benlamri (Khaleej)

Khaleej have returned to the top tier for the first time since 2017 and are determined to make their stay a lengthy one.

The team finished top of the second division last season but that was due more to their goalscoring abilities than those at the back as they conceded more than any of the promoted clubs.

Benlamri is a commanding center-back and an Algerian international who has solid Saudi Arabian experience thanks to four seasons with Al-Shabab. The 32-year-old should shore up the defense and that is necessary if Khaleej are to survive this difficult first season.

Grzegorz Krychowiak (Al-Shabab)

There are plenty of headlines given to the exciting strikers that have come to the top tier of Saudi Arabian football, but Al-Shabab have bags of attacking talent already.

The arrival of Polish international midfielder Krychowiak should give the likes of Ever Banega a more solid platform from which to operate. The 32-year-old has played for Paris Saint-Germain, and in La Liga and the English Premier League and while he may not catch the eye in terms of spectacular goals or mazy dribbles, he should make Al-Shabab, fourth last season, more difficult to beat.

Helder Costa (Al-Ittihad)

Coach Nuno knows the Portuguese winger very well and worked with the 28-year-old at Wolverhampton Wanderers in the English Premier League.

Costa, who has also played for Benfica and Monaco, eventually ended up going to Leeds United. After helping Marcelo Bielsa and the team to promotion to the top tier in England, Costa had a decent first season but was then soon loaned out to Valencia.

There is still plenty of talent there though and if Nuno can get the best out of the player, Al-Ittihad should reap the rewards.

Cristofer Gonzales (Al-Adalah)

Newly promoted Al-Adalah have added the Peruvian international to their ranks and the versatile midfielder will have a big part to play.

He starred as his country came within a penalty shootout of making the World Cup and scored seven goals in 20 appearances for his club last season. A hard worker, who creates chances, and also has an eye for goal, the 29-year-old could become the main man for his new team.

Bruno Duarte (Damac)

Damac had a great season last time around and at one point, looked like they could be genuine title challengers or at least possibles for a top-three finish.

As it was, a fifth-place finish, seven points above sixth, was still a success but had they had more firepower, then who knows what could have happened?

The addition of Bruno Duarte, who had a good spell in Portugal with Vitoria Guimaraes and even scored against Arsenal in the Europa League in 2019, should give Damac a little more cutting edge.

Ghislain Konan (Al-Nassr)

The full-back is a big signing for the whole league as he was in demand from a host of European clubs when it became clear that he was going to leave Reims after four successful seasons in French football.

Instead, the Ivory Coast international chose to come to Riyadh. If he can maintain his high level of performances, Al-Nassr will not only have a great chance of going from third to first, but it will show others that a move to the SPL can be a rewarding one for many reasons.

Kim Seung-gyu (Al-Shabab)

There have not been many goalkeepers from elsewhere in Asia to come to Saudi Arabia so there is a lot of interest to see how the South Korean international, who should be the country’s No. 1 at the World Cup in November, fares for Al-Shabab.

If he can help take the team to the next level and also show his counterparts elsewhere in the continent that the SPL is the place to be, then Kim’s arrival could be significant.

Gerson Rodrigues (Al-Wehda)

The Portugal-born Luxembourg international has arrived on loan from Dynamo Kyiv. He is well-travelled and has scored goals in Turkey, Japan, and France.

Al-Wehda, who scraped into the top three of the second tier, to take the last promotion place, will need all the experience that the 27-year-old midfielder has to offer. He can create and score, and has also appeared in the UEFA Champions League, but helping Al-Wehda stay up will be a fine achievement.


Rybakina says struggled under Sabalenka ‘pressure’ in final loss

Rybakina says struggled under Sabalenka ‘pressure’ in final loss
Updated 28 January 2023

Rybakina says struggled under Sabalenka ‘pressure’ in final loss

Rybakina says struggled under Sabalenka ‘pressure’ in final loss
  • Rybakina powered down nine aces and 31 winners over two hours and 28 minutes of punch and counter-punch
  • Sabalenka was unstoppable on Rod Laver Arena

MELBOURNE: Elena Rybakina said she struggled with the “pressure” and aggression from Aryna Sabalenka in falling to defeat in the Australian Open final on Saturday.
The Russian-born Kazakh gave as good as she got over three pulsating sets at Melbourne Park before losing 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the face of some ferocious hitting from fifth seed Sabalenka.
Rybakina, who has one of the most potent serves in women’s tennis and some of the fiercest groundstrokes, powered down nine aces and 31 winners over two hours and 28 minutes of punch and counter-punch.
But Sabalenka was unstoppable on Rod Laver Arena, the Belarusian juggernaut hitting back with 17 aces of her own and 51 winners, finally getting over the line on her fourth match point.
“I would say that not many girls can put me really under that sort of pressure,” Rybakina, 23, told reporters.
“She has a great serve and she plays really aggressive. Her ball is coming very heavy.
“I just knew that I had to serve well. It’s also pressure in the end, as soon as I have an opportunity, take it.
“Today I had some opportunities and didn’t take. The match didn’t go my way.”
Wimbledon champion Rybakina has now failed to beat Sabalenka in all of their four meetings and admitted she needs to improve if she is to break her duck.
“With Aryna now, the score is 0-4,” Rybakina said. “I would say the most challenging for me now is to play against Aryna again and get a win.
“Against a powerful player like her, I need to play more to improve.”
Rybakina will have the consolation of breaking into the top 10 for the first time, after reaching her second Grand Slam final in seven months.
She was awarded no ranking points for her Wimbledon win because of the ban on Russian and Belarusian players there.
“I don’t think tomorrow I’m going to feel different just because of the ranking now,” said Rybakina, who is projected to rise to 10th from her current 25th on Monday when the new rankings are published.
“But, I mean, for sure it’s going to be different in the smaller tournaments. I’m going to be seeded and maybe in some tournaments I’m not going to play first round, so of course there is some benefits.”


‘Action-packed’ Diriyah double-header opens Formula E 9th season

‘Action-packed’ Diriyah double-header opens Formula E 9th season
Updated 28 January 2023

‘Action-packed’ Diriyah double-header opens Formula E 9th season

‘Action-packed’ Diriyah double-header opens Formula E 9th season

DIRIYAH: Formula E is back for its ninth season and after a two-week break following an opener in Mexico City, the Diriyah E-Prix kicked off on Friday in the Saudi capital with two days of racing on the Diriyah Street Course.

TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team driver Pascal Wehrlein won round two of ABB FIA Formula E.

British racer Jake Dennis for team Avalanche Andretti said that the big difference between the Gen3 car from the Gen2 is in the grip and power of the vehicles. “But I think we did a really good debut night race here. You know, it was a lot of overtaking for everyone. It seemed like the race was action-packed the whole time. So I think we can be really happy with, you know, the good show and the pre-race build looks pretty cool as well with the fireworks and the drone display. So yeah, very happy for everyone involved to put on a good show today,” he said.

“Yeah, those Gen3 cars are massively different. They have more power, we have different tires. Also, the energy management is completely different. So, we have a lot to learn still. We are still figuring out how this animal works. But overall, I think we were making good progress. Especially I did a big step from yesterday to today. finishing fifth today for me, is quite a good result,” said Rene Rast, a German driver with McLaren.

 This season, laps have replaced the previous 45-minute timed races and pit stops are also back with the “attack charge” to be trialed at select races. (Arab News)

Portuguese driver Antonio Felix da Costa of Porsche described it as “awesome” to be back in Saudi Arabia. “It’s impressive to see the evolution of this place or the area, where everything’s being built around and how we are always welcome,” he said, adding that the Kingdom always gives a warm welcome to the Formula E. “The track is one of the most fun tracks of the year. And it’s a big challenge. But it’s a lot of fun.”

He added that every track is different, but that the Diriyah course has a lot of character. “You know, there’s a sector, too, it’s kind of high speed, you know, a good sequence of corners which is a good challenge for us and makes it fun,” he said.

This season, laps have replaced the previous 45-minute timed races and pit stops are also back with the “attack charge” to be trialed at select races.


LeBron James jersey sells for whopping $3.7 million

LeBron James jersey sells for whopping $3.7 million
Updated 28 January 2023

LeBron James jersey sells for whopping $3.7 million

LeBron James jersey sells for whopping $3.7 million
  • Sotheby’s in New York sold the jersey, which James wore while playing for  Miami Heat in their 2013 NBA Finals Game 7 victory against San Antonio Spurs

NEW YORK: A game-worn jersey of basketball superstar LeBron James sold for $3.7 million at auction Friday, five times more than the previous record for one of his shirts.

The sale comes with interest even higher than usual in the 38-year-old LA Lakers icon as he nears the NBA’s all-time scoring record.

Sotheby’s in New York sold the jersey, which James wore while playing for the Miami Heat in their 2013 NBA Finals Game 7 victory against the San Antonio Spurs.

It smashed the previous record of $630,000 for a James All-Star jersey worn in 2020.

Game-worn sports memorabilia is big business.

Michael Jordan’s 1998 NBA Finals jersey, which sold for $10.1 million in September 2022, is currently the most valuable such item.

Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” jersey sold for $9.3 million at Sotheby’s in London last year.

James needs just 178 points to eclipse Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s tally of 38,387 points, one of the most coveted and longstanding records in basketball.

Sotheby’s also sold a dress worn by the late Princess Diana for $604,800 Friday.


Inspired Szoboszlai leads Leipzig to victory over Stuttgart

Inspired Szoboszlai leads Leipzig to victory over Stuttgart
Updated 28 January 2023

Inspired Szoboszlai leads Leipzig to victory over Stuttgart

Inspired Szoboszlai leads Leipzig to victory over Stuttgart
  • Szoboszlai showed off his technical skills with the second goal in the 49th

LEIPZIG, Germany: Two sweetly hit shots from Dominik Szoboszlai lifted Leipzig to a 2-1 win over Stuttgart to close within a point of Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich on Friday.

Szoboszlai had not scored in the league since September before the Hungarian midfielder gave his team the lead with a swerving, dipping free kick in the 25th minute that goalkeeper Florian Muller could only push into his own net.

Szoboszlai showed off his technical skills with the second goal in the 49th, using one touch to control a header from teammate Andre Silva on the edge of the penalty area before letting the ball drop and striking a half-volley that left Muller no chance.

Embroiled in a fight to avoid relegation, Stuttgart had plenty of chances to exploit defensive errors from Leipzig but couldn’t convert enough of them.

Shortly before Szoboszlai’s second goal, Stuttgart’s Niklas Nartey could have leveled the score when he was one-on-one with Leipzig goalkeeper Janis Blaswich, but his shot bobbled wide of the far post instead. Stuttgart finally scored when Chris Führich powered a penalty past Blaswich in the 68th after a handball by defender Joško Gvardiol. That ensured a tense finish for Leipzig but the hosts largely kept Stuttgart at bay in the closing stages.

Bayern has drawn both of its opening games of 2023, including one against Leipzig last week, as it adapts to life without goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who has a broken leg. Bayern can restore a four-point lead if it beats fourth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.


Manchester City knock out Arsenal 1-0 in FA Cup

Manchester City knock out Arsenal 1-0 in FA Cup
Updated 28 January 2023

Manchester City knock out Arsenal 1-0 in FA Cup

Manchester City knock out Arsenal 1-0 in FA Cup
  • England’s two best teams have a league showdown at Emirates Stadium on Feb. 15

MANCHESTER, England: Manchester City issued a statement of intent by knocking out Arsenal 1-0 in the FA Cup on Friday.

Nathan Ake’s 64th-minute goal settled the fourth-round match at Etihad Stadium and the result may yet reverberate through the rest of the season.

Arsenal lead City by five points at the top of the English Premier League, but their seven-game unbeaten run was ended by City, who have three straight wins in all competitions.

England’s two best teams have a league showdown at Emirates Stadium on Feb. 15. For now, City manager Pep Guardiola has gained an edge on his former assistant, Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta.

“I know how difficult it is to beat Arsenal. They lost one game in the Premier League, so I know how difficult it is,” Guardiola said.

Defender Ake was the unlikely match-winner after curling a low shot past goalkeeper Matt Turner.

Arsenal had chances while enjoying the better of the first half. Takehiro Tomiyasu and Leandro Trossard forced saves from City goalkeeper Stefan Ortega, and Eddie Nketiah fired narrowly wide from close range.

The visitors were made to pay when City improved after the break and Ake produced the decisive strike.

“(I’m) really disappointed,” Arteta said. “We could have got much more out of the game. In the big moments in big matches you have to make the difference.”

While a place in the fifth round of the cup was at stake, it was impossible to ignore the wider context of a match between the teams who are the front-runners in the league race.

Arsenal have been in outstanding form, picking up 50 points after 19 games and playing with a confidence not seen since Arsene Wenger’s title-winning teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

As if to underline the fact that the cup is neither team’s priority, Guardiola and Arteta left key players out of their lineups.

Guardiola benched Ederson, Kyle Walker, Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva.

Arteta left out Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White, William Saliba, Martin Odegaard, Gabriel Martinelli and Oleksandr Zinchenko.

Arsenal’s new signing, Trossard, was given his first start since joining from Brighton last week.

Despite the changes, Arsenal created the better chances in the first half but could not make them count.

City began to control the game after the break without creating many clear-cut openings until Ake broke the deadlock.

Substitute Alvarez’s strike from outside the box beat Turner, but came back off the post. Jack Grealish picked up the rebound and laid off to Ake, who hit a first-time effort low into the corner.

Elimination gives Arsenal one less distraction in its bid for the title and Arteta hopes to strengthen his squad before the transfer window closes at the end of the month.

The London club has been linked with a $74 million move for Brighton midfielder Moises Caicedo, but Arteta would not answer specific questions about the player.

“We have been pretty active in the market. We have some necessities,” he said. “If something else is available, the club is willing to try to do it when it is reasonable and hopefully he’s a player that can improve our squad.”