“Stability” restored Al-Ittihad to the front of the Saudi League
After ten presidents took turns managing it in the last decade, stability returned to the corridors of Al-Ittihad Club, and it was crowned with its first title in the Saudi Football League since 2009, thanks to its offensive efficiency and defensive solidity.
Al-Ittihad won its ninth title in its history as a result of administrative stability that it had experienced during the past four years since the election of Anmar Al-Haeli as president by acclamation. It secured the title and thus qualified for the Club World Cup scheduled for Saudi Arabia in December, where it will meet New Zealand’s Auckland City in the first round.
The “Brigadier” avoided repeating the scenario of last season and 2008, after the team was just around the corner from being crowned. As he lost the 2008 title in the last stage in favor of Al-Hilal, and last season in the final meters in favor of Al-Hilal as well.
The public support played a major role in returning to the podiums, so Al-Ittihad topped the attendance ranking in its “radiant jewel” stadium, which can accommodate sixty thousand spectators, while its match with Al-Ta’i in the last stage became the highest income in the history of the league with 16 million riyals ($ 4.27 million) from the sale tickets only.
In addition to administrative stability, Portuguese coach Nuno Espirito Santo led the Tigers to safety, both defensively and offensively, so the continuation of the former Wolverhampton coach became a public and administrative demand.
The Jeddah team adhered to the stay of the 49-year-old former goalkeeper, whose contract expires in June 2024. Ahmed Kaaki, the club’s vice president, explained in televised statements: “Santo will continue in his duties with Al-Ittihad Club in the next season, especially since his contract continues for a year. 2024».
And the historical leader of the federation and former captain of the Saudi national team, Ahmed Jamil, believes, in a statement to the French Press Agency, that “Santo succeeded in restoring the prestige of the federation and strengthened the confidence of the players. This appeared by his adherence to the Egyptian midfielder Tariq Hamed’s deal, despite the harsh criticism that the player was subjected to at the beginning of the season, so he insisted on his participation, and Hamed did not disappoint the coach.
Former defender Jamil, who is now 53 years old, continued: “Santo varied in the playing keys and arranged the team’s offensive cards, so the team appeared as the best defense (13 goals) and the second best attack (60), benefiting from the offensive efficiency of Moroccan Abdel Razzak Hamdallah, who crowned his bid over the years. The season won the top scorer title with 21 goals.
Al-Ittihad lost only two matches this season, against Al-Hilal 0-1 and Al-Taawoun 1-2.
He relied defensively on his Egyptian captain, Ahmed Hegazy, who came in October 2020 from West Bromwich, England, with about 3 million euros.
The 32-year-old player revealed that losing the title last season was a turning point: “Since the preparation camp last summer, Al-Ittihad players have pledged to do their best for the coronation, and this is what was achieved in the end.”
He also relied on his veteran Brazilian goalkeeper Marcelo Grohe (36 years), who has been experienced in the Saudi League since 2019, so his team kept his net clean in 19 matches out of 30, so that the former Gremio goalkeeper, who helped his colleagues greatly and motivated them to win the title, outperformed the historic Al Hilal goalkeeper. Mohammed Al-Daie.
Offensively, the Moroccan duo Abd al-Razzaq Hamdallah (21), who was a reserve player with his country on the journey to reach fourth place in the Qatar World Cup 2022, and the Brazilian Romarinho (13), scored more than half of the federation’s goals (34 out of 60), so the first won the title of top scorer. For the third time in his career, with a goal difference from Brazilian striker Talisca, Al-Nasr.
Romarinho scored 117 goals in 174 matches under the colors of the federation (92 goals and 25 assists), which placed him in a prominent place in the hearts of the fans since his arrival in 2018 from the Emirati island.