Remember those Saudi Arabian players Villarreal signed? This World Cup should spark a reminder, so we have taken a look at where the players are now.
Controversy arose in the winter of 2018 when it was announced that due to a deal with the Saudi Arabian federation, some Spanish teams, among them Villarreal, would get Saudi players on loan, not only without having to pay anything, but getting a pretty good sum of money for the trouble.
We got two players: Salem Al-Dawsari and Jaber Issa. After just a short time, they returned to their country, and their careers have been very different.
Let’s start with Jaber Issa. A young prospect at the time, he arrived from Al-Shabab to work with the cantera, having signed his first professional contract with them mere weeks before arriving in Spain.
Wether he had arrived for the B team or C team is a bit difficult to say as a lot of reports claim the former, while there are a minority claiming the latter. The reality? He was added to the C team squad, thus playing in Tercera. Or that was what it was said, as I haven’t found any data about it.
After this adventure, he returned to Saudi Arabia being transferred to Al-Ittihad where he didn’t manage to get into the starting line-up regularly, and was later transferred to Al-Wehda, with whom he suffered a relegation in the 2020-21 season.
In 2021, left the club to play for Al-Raaed. In March 2022, Issa returned to Europe to be part of FC Van of the Armenian top flight before returning this summer to Saudi Arabia to play for Al-Jabalain at the second level.
Looking at his career, he hasn’t manage to become a fixture of any team where he has been so far, which makes an intriguing question of; if the teams went to Saudi Arabia to scout the players and choose the ones they felt would fit better at their club, who was in charge of scouting this one?
But there was another player. His name? Salem Al-Dawsari, who recently grabbed the headlines as he scored the winning goal against Argentina at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
At Villarreal, he played only one match - and what a match - coming on as a substitute against Real Madrid. After his spell with the Yellows, he returned to the loaning club, Al-Hilal, where he has been playing since.
A pretty regular starter, he has won three league titles with them, one King’s cup, two Super cups and two AFC Champions Leagues. Besides that, he has also been selected into the IFFHS AFC team of the year (2020) and of the decade, as well as being the MVP of the AFC Champions League.
He has also been part of the Saudi Arabian team, his most notable moment being the winning goal against Argentina, thus being joint second at the table of Saudi scorers at the World Cup, where he has been largely recognised as Saudi’s most dangerous player.