Saudi Arabia may be better known for its sand and oil supply beyond the stereotypes of life in the middle-east lies the Saudi Professional football league. Currently in it’s 43rd season fans of the English Premier League may be surprised to see some familiar faces turning out for some of Saudi’s biggest clubs.
In Riyadh you’ll find former Swansea City man Bafetimbi Gomis turning out for title chasers Al Hilal; with 19 goals this campaign the Frenchman is currently one of the league’s most inform foreign imports this season.
Scoring just 13 goals with ‘the Swans’ before departing the Welsh club in 2017 Gomis has found significant form away from the Liberty Stadium. With successful spells at Marseille, Galatasaray and now Al Hilal the man with the infamous lion celebration has made his name as the pride of the ‘Blue Waves’.
At the other end of the field once described as a “stone cold penalty killer,” Ali Al-Habsi of Wigan and Bolton Wanderers fame is also plying his trade in the Saudi Professional League. The now 37 year-old was last seen on English shores at Reading in 2017 before making the switch to Al Hilal lifting the division’s title in his first season with the club.
Meanwhile at second place Al Nassr former Leicester speedster Ahmed Musa and former Watford winger Nordin Ambrarat have enjoyed had similar success under the hot Saudi sun despite their fall from the Premier League.
After his £16 million move to Leicester City Nigerian forward Musa just couldn’t live up to expectations at the King Power. Since making a reported £14 million switch to Al Nissar the 26 year-old has scored five and assisted six times during his maiden campaign in the far east.
In the case of Moroccan winger Amrabat his surprise move to Al Nassr last summer revitalized his stagnant career, scoring just once since leaving Vicarage Road the 32 year-old has netted five times this season and leads the assist charts with eight assists this campaign.
With less than three games to go Al-Hilal are just two points ahead of fierce rivals and second place Al Nassr, and whether Gomis’s goals can keep Al-Hilal ahead is about as unclear as Chelsea’s transfer policy. It’ll be an exciting end to the season nonetheless, and I for one can’t wait to see who comes out on top.