Marcelo Gallardo Accepts 18-Month Deal to Coach Saudi Pro League’s Al Ittihad

Marcelo Gallardo is headed to the Middle East…

The 47-year-old Argentine football coach and former professional player, the most successful manager in River Plate history, has accepted an 18-month contract to coach Karim BenzemaFabinho and N’Golo Kanté at Al Ittihad, according to ESPN.

Marcelo Gallardo The Saudi Pro League defending champions reached a deal with the former River Plate manager after they fired Portuguese coach Nuno Espírito Santo last week — just six months after he led them to a title win. 

Al Ittihad currently sit fifth in the Saudi league table with a 7-3-3 record, 11 points behind league-leading Al Hilal.

Gallardo last coached one year ago when he led River Plate to a 4-0 win over Real Betis in a friendly held in Mendoza. His overall career record for 425 matches is 228-111-86.

He won 14 trophies in his eight years at the helm since 2014, including three Copa Libertadores triumphs, before leaving in October of 2022 to take a break from coaching.

As a player, he also won six league titles and one Copa Libertadores title with River Plate.

Al Ittihad will face Auckland City on December 12 in the Club World Cup.

Neymar Scores First  Saudi Pro League Goal in Al-Hilal Match vs. Nassaji Mazandaran

It’s a Saudi Pro League first for Neymar. 

The 31-year-old Brazilian superstar scored his first goal since his high profile move to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday as Al-Hilal defeated Iran’s Nassaji Mazandaran 3-0 in Tehran’s Azadi Stadium in the group phase of the Asian Champions League.

Neymar,Neymar, who moved to the Saudi Pro League side from Paris Saint-Germain in the summer for €90 million ($94.23 million), was on target in an incident-filled clash that saw both teams reduced to 10 men with seven minutes remaining in the first half.

Aleksandar Mitrovic had headed the Saudi outfit in front in the 18th minute before referee Ma Ning sent off Al-Hilal’s Salman Al Faraj and Nassaji’s Amir Houshmand after consulting the pitchside monitor following an on-field melee.

Neymar doubled Al-Hilal’s lead with a perfectly timed left-foot strike in the 58th minute and substitute Saleh Al Shehri put the seal on a comfortable win in injury time.

The victory was Al-Hilal’s first in the group phase of the continental competition this season after the four-times champions started their campaign with a draw against Navbahor last month.

The Uzbek side backed up that result with a 3-0 win over Mumbai City on Tuesday to join Al-Hilal on top of Group D with four points after goals from Jamshid Iskanderov, Jasurbek Yakhshiboev and Doniyor Abdumannopov secured victory.

Al Ain from the United Arab Emirates moved into sole possession of top spot in Group A with a 4-2 win over Turkmenistan’s Ahal as Uzbek outfit Pakhtakor slipped to a 2-0 loss against Al Fayha from Saudi Arabia.

Al Ain backed up their opening round win over Pakhtakor with an impressive attacking performance in front of their own fans as Brazilian midfielder Erik put the former champions ahead in the fourth minute with a clinical finish.

Soufiane Rahimi and Kodjo Laba ensured Al Ain had a three-goal lead at the break and, while Elman Tagayew pulled one back in the 58th minute, Kouame Kouadio netted a fourth for the hosts that meant Dayanch Meredow‘s late strike was only a consolation.

Al Ain now have a three-point cushion over Ahal and Al Fayha, who had a goal in each half from Abdelhamid Sabiri to thank for their 2-0 win at home over Pakhtakor.

The winners in each of the 10 four-team groups are guaranteed to progress to the last 16, with the remaining places filled by the three teams from the east and west of the continent with the best runners-up records.

Neymar Officially Joins Saudi Club Al-Hilal from PSG in Two-Year Deal

Neymar’s transfer to the Middle East is complete…

The 31-year-old Brazilian soccer star has officially completed a move from French champions Paris Saint-Germain to Saudi Arabian side Al Hilal, the clubs confirmed Tuesday.

NeymarAs previously reported, Brazil’s joint all-time top scorer was close to accepting personal terms with Al Hilal after the clubs agreed a transfer fee of €90 million ($98.6m).

“I have achieved a lot in Europe and enjoyed special times, but I have always wanted to be a global player and test myself with new challenges and opportunities in new places,” Neymar said.

“I want to write new sporting history, and the Saudi Pro League has tremendous energy and quality players at the moment. I have heard a lot and learned that I am following a long list of Brazilian players who have played in Saudi Arabia over the years, so I believe it is the desired place.

“Al Hilal is a giant club with fantastic fans, and it is the best in Asia. This gives me a feeling that it is the right decision for me at the right time with the right club. I love winning and scoring goals, and I plan to continue doing that in Saudi Arabia and with Al Hilal.”

Neymar will link up with new teammates Kalidou KoulibalyRúben Neves and Sergej Milinković-Savić, who all made the move to Al Hilal earlier this summer.

Al Hilal are one of four clubs — along with Al Nassr, Al Ahli and Al Ittihad who were taken under the ownership of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund in June as part of the country’s “Sports Clubs Investment and Privatization Project.”

Neymar has reportedly been offered a two-year contract expected to pay an annual salary of around $100 million. That would be around half of the reported salary Cristiano Ronaldo is being paid by Al Nassr.

“Neymar Jr is a global icon who has brought joy and pleasure to all fans wherever he plays,” Al Hilal chairman Fahad bin Saad bin Nafel said in a statement. “The spotlight is always on him and he always responds to it. We are delighted to have him join Al-Hilal, the most successful club in all of Asia.”

Neymar joined PSG in 2017 when the club — owned by Qatar Sports Investments — paid a still-world-record transfer fee of €222m to pry him away from Barcelona.

He scored 118 goals in 173 appearances for the Paris club and won numerous trophies, including five Ligue 1 titles, but was increasingly a target of fans’ frustrations as the club failed to win the UEFA Champions League.

“It is always difficult to say goodbye to an amazing player like Neymar, one of the best players in the world, said PSG president and CEO Nasser Al-Khelaïfi.

“I will never forget the day he arrived at Paris Saint-Germain, and what he has contributed to our Club and our project over the last 6 years. We had a great moment and Neymar will always be a big part of our history. I would like to thank Neymar and his family. We wish Neymar all the very best for the future and his next adventure.”

Al Hilal Agrees to $98.6 Million Deal with Paris Saint-Germain for Neymar

Neymar is one step closed to making a move to the Middle (East)

Saudi Pro League side Al Hilal has agreed to a €90 million ($98.6m) deal with Paris Saint-Germain for the 31-year-old Brazilian professional footballer and PSG forward, according to ESPN sources.

NeymarOn Sunday, reports surfaced that Brazil’s joint all-time top scorer was close to agreeing to personal terms with Al Hilal as the two clubs negotiated a deal. He will now join Al Hilal on a two-year contract with the option of a third.

Neymar will link up with new teammates Kalidou KoulibalyRúben Neves and Sergej Milinković-Savić, who all made the move to Al Hilal earlier this summer.

Al Hilal are one of four clubs — along with Al NassrAl Ahli and Al Ittithad who were taken under the ownership of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund in June as part of the country’s so-called “Sports Clubs Investment and Privatization Project.”

Saudi Pro League clubs have pursued an aggressive recruitment strategy in this transfer window, offering lucrative contracts to some of the sport’s biggest stars.

PSG made Neymar the most expensive footballer of all time in 2017 — a record he still holds — when they dramatically signed him from Barcelona in a €222m deal.

Neymar’s move away from PSG brings an end to a tumultuous six years in the French capital, where he often struggled with injuries and off-field issues.

Neymar has won five Ligue 1 titles and 13 domestic honors in total with PSG, as well as finishing as runner-up in the 2020 Champions League final.

Neymar Close to Finalizing Deal with Saudi Pro League’s Al Hilal

Neymar is thisclose to finalizing terms for a move to the Middle East.

The 31-year-old Brazilian professional footballer and Paris Saint-Germain forward is close to agreeing to personal terms with Al Hilal and completing a move to the Saudi Pro League, according to ESPN.

NeymarPSG want €80 million ($88 million) for Neymar, but negotiations between the clubs are progressing well, sources said.

Sources added that Neymar is set to sign a two-year deal for €100m a year at Al Hilal, where he would potentially link up with Kalidou KoulibalyRúben Neves and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.

The Brazil international was left out of PSG‘s squad for their opening Ligue 1 fixture of the season Saturday, a goalless draw against Lorient, amid reports of a move away from the club.

A return to Barcelona has been mooted, with Barca captain Sergi Roberto even saying he had discussed the topic with Neymar.

ESPN reported earlier this week that Neymar is keen to rejoin Barcelona this summer, but there is an internal debate at the club around the forward’s signing, with some arguing in favor of the move and others — including coach Xavi Hernandez — believing he would not fit into this Barca team.

The chances of a move happening are remote because of the club’s financial problems and Xavi’s opposition to his return.

Sources told ESPN that PSG, who signed forward Ousmane Dembélé from Barca on Saturday, would be happy for Neymar to leave.

Since moving to France in 2017, Neymar has won five Ligue 1 titles and 13 domestic honors in total, as well as finishing runner-up in the 2020 Champions League final.

Al Ahli’s Roberto Firmino Scores Hat-Trick in Saudi Pro League Debut

Roberto Firmino is tipping his hat (trick) after a big performance…

The 31-year-old Brazilian striker shone with a debut hat trick to help Al Ahli secure a 3-1 home win over Al Hazem in the opening fixture of the Saudi Pro League season on Friday.

Roberto FirminoThe former Liverpool forward scored twice in the opening 10 minutes before another strike in the 72nd for his treble sealed the three points for the newly promoted team. 

Al Ahli and Al Hazem were two of the four clubs promoted to the Saudi top flight, which has increased from 16 teams to 18 this season.

The hosts took the lead after six minutes with a header from captain Firmino, who got his double with a close-range finish from ex-Manchester City winger and fellow new arrival Riyad Mahrez‘s cross four minutes later.

Having been largely dominated in the first half, Al Hazem pulled a goal back five minutes after the break as Vina seized on a poor clearance by goalkeeper Édouard Mendy, signed from Chelsea.

Firmino, however, capped a perfect opening night by restoring the two-goal lead with less than 20 minutes to go.

Reigning champions Al Ittihad, who have signed Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema from Real Madrid and Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kanté, play their first game on Sunday at Al Raed.

Cristiano Ronaldo‘s Al Nassr, runners-up last season, face Al Ettifaq on Monday.

The game could see former Liverpool team mates Sadio Mané, who joined Al Nassr last week, and Jordan Henderson facing off.

Chelsea F.C. Announces Official Signing of Goalkeeper Robert Sánchez

It’s official! Robert Sánchez is leaving Brighton

Chelsea F.C. has signed the 25-year-old Spanish goalkeeper from Brighton on a seven-year contract, the club announced on Saturday.

Robert Sanchez

As previously reported, Chelsea had agreed a fee in the region of £25 million ($31.7m) for Sanchez.

Chelsea has been looking to bolster their goalkeeping options since Edouard Mendy joined Saudi Pro League side Al Ahli in June.

Chelsea is looking to revive its fortunes under new manager Mauricio Pochettino after coming 12th in the Premier League last season — their worst finish since 1994.

“Robert has repeatedly proved himself in the Premier League and been capped by his country,” Paul Winstanley and Laurence Stewart, Chelsea’s co-sporting directors, said in a statement.

“We are excited to watch him work with Mauricio and his coaching team during the season ahead.”

Sanchez joined Brighton’s academy in 2013 and has made 87 Premier League appearances for the south-coast club, but fell out of favor towards the end of the previous season, with Jason Steele starting 15 of Brighton’s last 16 league games.

Sanchez, who is adept with his feet and has a strong range of passing, has won two caps for Spain. He will compete for the goalkeeper position at Stamford Bridge with compatriot Kepa Arrizabalaga.

“Robert is a good guy and a really good player, but being a coach sometimes means making difficult and painful decisions for the team,” Brighton coach Roberto De Zerbi said.

“I wish him good luck for the future.”

Chelsea Acquire Robert Sanchez from Brighton & Hove Albion

Robert Sanchez is switching sides…

Chelsea has agreed on a fee in the region of £25 million ($31.7m) for the 25-year-old Spanish professional soccer player and Brighton & Hove Albion goalkeeper, according to ESPN.

Robert SanchezChelsea returned from their preseason tour to the United States on Thursday and Sanchez is expected to undergo a medical in the coming days ahead of a move all parties hope will be completed in time to start the Premier League season at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea had been looking for a goalkeeper to rival Kepa Arrizabalaga for the No. 1 shirt after Edouard Mendy left the club in June to join Saudi Pro League side Al Ahli.

Sanchez was omitted from Brighton’s U.S. tour amid uncertainty over his future after losing his place to Jason Steele towards the end of last season.

Brighton have already signed Netherlands Under-21 goalkeeper Bart Verbruggen from Anderlecht as a replacement for Sanchez.

Sanchez played 25 times for Brighton last season and kept six clean sheets.

Meanwhile, the two clubs are continuing to negotiate a deal for Moises Caicedo as Chelsea pursue their top midfield target.

Brighton value Caicedo in excess of £100m but Chelsea’s latest bid totaled £80m and was immediately rejected when tabled last week.

Fabinho Joins Saudi Pro League’s Al-Ittihad from Liverpool

Fabinho is headed to the Middle East.

The Brazil midfielder has joined Al-Ittihad from Liverpool on a three-year deal, the Saudi club announced on Monday.

FabinhoFinancial details were not disclosed, but British media reported the Saudi Pro League champions paid £40 million ($51.33 million) for Fabinho.

Al-Ittihad posted a video on messaging platform X, formerly known as Twitter, with the title “Tigers are permitted to pass” in reference to media reports suggesting the deal might be delayed due to the breed of Fabinho’s dogs which are prohibited from entering Saudi Arabia.

The video featured the Brazilian midfielder holding a tiger and saying: “I’m Tiger.”

“Today I leave my home. It’s been five years wearing this jersey and always with the greatest honour and happiness possible. I love this club. Thank you, Reds, for everything we’ve experienced together. You will never walk alone,” Fabinho wrote on X.

Fabinho will join Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema and former Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante at the Jeddah-based club.

The Brazil international made 219 appearances for Liverpool since his arrival in 2018, and helped the team to the Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Super Cup titles.

Fabinho was not always a regular for Liverpool last season after a loss of form. Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has overhauled his midfield by signing Argentina’s Alexis Mac Allister and Hungary captain Dominik Szoboszlai, and the club is now searching for a holding midfielder to replace Fabinho.

The Saudi Pro League has become an attractive destination for high-profile players since Cristiano Ronaldo moved to Al-Nassr last January in a deal reported to be worth around $220 million per year.

Fulham F.C. Agrees to Deal with Wolverhampton Wanderers to Sign Raul Jimenez

Raul Jimenez is switching sides…

Fulham F.C. has agreed to a £5 million ($6.42m) deal with the Wolverhampton Wanderers to sign the 32-year-old Mexican professional footballer, according to ESPN.

Raul JimenezJimenez is set to finalize personal terms, and a medical is expected to take place early next week.

Fulham’s interest comes amid ongoing uncertainty over the future of Aleksandar Mitrovic, who is not available for selection after being frustrated at being denied a move away from the club.

The Serbia forward is keen on joining Saudi Pro League side Al Hilal, who’ve had a £25m bid rejected with Fulham valuing him in excess of £50m.

Jimenez has been at Wolves since 2018 — initially on loan from Benfica before joining permanently a year later — and was later sidelined for nine months after fracturing his skull during a game against Arsenal in 2020.

Fulham boss Marco Silva had on Saturday expressed his frustration at the club’s lack of signings this summer, but Jimenez is now close to becoming their first arrival.