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'Fiasco': How Saudi players had a rough time in Spain

AFP  |  Madrid 

Nine Saudi players loaned to Spanish clubs to improve their level before left without hardly playing in what ended up as a "fiasco".

"Adapting is difficult," said David Cobeno, sporting at Madrid-based second division side Rayo Vallecano, which signed 24-year-old Saudi

"Everything outside of sports, the language, food, the city, that was what was hardest for him," he said.

Al-Sulayhem, who only speaks Arabic, needed to be accompanied at all times by a translator, even during training. He never played in an official match.

A scenario was played out at six other Spanish clubs which took on one or two Saudi players during the winter transfer window under and agreement between and the Authority.

The cost of the loans was split between the participating Spanish and Saudi clubs.

The initiative was not popular in either country since the Saudi players -- including several who are part of the Saudi team which will face in opening match on Thursday -- hardly got any time on the pitch.

- 'Fiasco' -

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Saudi Salem Al-Dawsari, who was on loan at Villarreal in Spain's top-flight, and striker who went to Levante, only played for a few minutes at the end of the season when their teams' fate was already decided.

Attacking Yahia Al-Sheri, who went to Leganes, never played in a match. In the second division none of the four clubs that received a Saudi -- Sporting Gijon, Valladolid, Numancia and Rayo Vallecano -- used them in a match.

None of those clubs responded to AFP's request to discuss the Saudi players.

"From a sporting point of view, this is perhaps the biggest of the agreement, because the participation of these nine players has been practically negligible," former Gijon and University of told

"Knowing training techniques or playing with Spaniards, that is not why they come, clearly. They come for more than that, to contribute, to experience another rhythm of play, and that is done by playing, not training." defends the agreement, which helps its ambitious international expansion policy.

In Saudi Arabia, "they may have thought they would play more, but they also realised that the level of the Spanish championship is very, very high," said Fernando Sanz, for the and

- Expansion -

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"The project is not based on whether they played more or less," Sanz said, adding some players gained "over four kilos of muscle" due to the quality of the training.

"These kinds of agreements mean the Liga brand enters (Saudi Arabia) much more." But the initiative has its critics in

Jesus Barbadilla, of Spanish football players' union AFE, accused La Liga of "in a certain way auctioning off spots" in teams in with such deals.

In the weeks after the loans were agreed, a Saudi telecoms firm signed with the seven clubs that received players on loan.

Sanz said this was not a trade-off but the result of the clubs having gained greater visibility in

"Logically, Saudi companies are interested in where their players play," he said. Rodriguez said he believes the ultimate goal of the agreement is to make the sale of TV rights for the more attractive in

But what really draws viewers to a particular league is the presence of big stars such as Barcelona's and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo, he added.

"These are the type of players you need to have to have bigger revenues," Rodriguez said.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, June 12 2018. 16:10 IST
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