Brozovic set to take Al-Nassr's midfield to new heights – Arab News
Al-Nassr have made their first significant signing since Cristiano Ronaldo as Marcelo Brozovic arrives from Inter Milan.
One of the top defensive midfielders in the world will be lining up with the five-time Ballon D’Or winner in the increasingly famous yellow shirt next season.
The signing is another coup for the Riyadh club that finished second last season behind Al-Ittihad.
It leaves the Italian giants, who only last month lost the Champions League final to Manchester City, looking for a replacement for the 30-year-old who has spent over eight years at the club.
It also leaves Barcelona looking for another to shore up their midfield after they were linked with the Croatian.
Al-Nassr perhaps sent a little dig toward the Catalan club in the official unveiling video. “Everyone wanted him,” it said. “He wanted ONLY us.” The Croatian then appeared to tell his new fans: “Don’t worry, I’m here. I choose Al-Nassr.”
The announcement came just two days after Luiz Gustavo left the club. The Brazilian defensive midfielder had a fine season for Al-Nassr after arriving from Fenerbahce, and the former Bayern Munich man was almost an ever-present in the season when the Riyadh giants pushed Al-Ittihad all the way before falling short right at the end.
Most would agree however that Brozovic is an upgrade. He has been playing at the very top of the European game for almost a decade. At the same time, he has appeared close to 90 times for Croatia and was a vital part of the team that reached the final of the 2018 World Cup and the last four just last December in Qatar.
Despite that big game experience, Brozovic is not a Ronaldo or a Benzema. He is not going to do as many spectacular things on the pitch and does not score many goals. Yet he could be a crucial capture for the club. As one Italian newspaper said as it lamented the loss of the star who had been at the heart of Inter Milan for years: “The player who has kept things ticking over under all of Luciano Spalletti, Antonio Conte, and Simone Inzaghi will no longer be an Inter player starting next season. Now, the task begins of constructing a new-look midfield.”
That is what he will do in Saudi Arabia. He will keep the Al-Nassr midfield ticking over as an experienced performer. Brozovic makes use of the ball well and the Al-Nassr defenders will welcome the fact that he will be an outlet for the ball when they are under pressure. The Zagreb-born star is a fine passer and his presence should mean that the team not only will have more possession but should also be able to use it in a more effective way. This has to be good news for the likes of Ronaldo and Talisca in attack.
Such experienced stars will also benefit from Brozovic’s awareness on and off the ball. Whoever comes in as coach will find a defensive midfielder who can thrive in multiple systems and is an intelligent reader of the game.
This should be a real boon for Al-Nassr. At times last season, there were opportunities to either pull away at the top of the league, move back above Al-Ittihad or at least put serious pressure on the leaders. Yet too many opportunities were wasted, with overreliance on the individual brilliance of players such as Ronaldo and Talisca and not enough coherent organization and tactics.
The arrival of Brozovic should go a long way to remedy that. He thrives in well-oiled systems while helping to take them to the next level.
It is also good news for fans after a move to sign Hakim Ziyech from Chelsea did not materialize. The Moroccan winger would have been an exciting addition but, according to reports, a medical found complications with a knee injury, and the deal fell through.
Brozovic is a different player than Ziyech but is a class act and does what all fans want new signings to do: he will make Al-Nassr a better team and possibly take them to the top next season.
RIYADH: Al-Hilal sent a message to the rest of Saudi Arabia with the biggest-ever win in the Roshn Saudi League, a 9-0 thrashing of Al-Hazm that restored their four-point lead over Al-Nassr in second. They meet next Friday, and mouths are already starting to water.
It all means that Al-Hilal are still unbeaten in the league after 14 games and have won 12 and drawn just two. It was a devastating demonstration of firepower at the home of the bottom club with goals spread throughout six players with Malcom managing a hat-trick.
It was no surprise that the first fell to Aleksandar Mitrovic after 14 minutes, and it was a real striker’s goal. Mohammed Al-Breik swung in an inviting cross from deep, and it cleared the defense and looked to be heading into the arms of goalkeeper Aymen Dahmen, but Mitrovic stretched out a leg to volley home from close range. It was the start of what was going to be a very long afternoon for the hosts.
Mohamed Kanno added a second just after the half-hour. There seemed to be little danger when the midfielder picked up possession 30 meters from goal but he let fly with a shot that flew into the top corner to extend Al-Hilal’s lead. Mohammed Al-Qahtani made it three two minutes before the break, reacting quickly to fire home the rebound after Mitrovic’s low shot had been palmed away by the Tunisian goalkeeper who was having an increasingly busy evening.
It meant that the teams headed in at the break with few fans watching in any doubt as to where the points were heading — they were going back to Riyadh, but nobody could have predicted that there were still many more goals to come.
Malcom scored twice in three minutes early after the restart. Mitrovic was involved again, slipping the ball through the backline for the Brazilian winger to enter the area, skip past the ‘keeper with his first touch and then slide home. 
Then Michael got to the byline on the left and pulled the ball back for Malcom to score from close range and it was all getting very painful indeed for Al-Hazm. Almost immediately, however, they scored, but Mohamed Al-Thani’s precious strike was ruled out for offside and there was to be no respite. 
The visiting fans had to wait until the 79th minute for No. 6 and it came from Saleh Al-Shehri who returned to club action after scoring four goals in two World Cup qualifiers for Saudi Arabia, who defeated Pakistan and Jordan.
His goal was a simple tap-in after Michael had again reached the right byline this time and rolled the ball across the goal for the in-form Al-Shehri. Two minutes later, Al-Breik made a rare appearance on the scoresheet. The full-back entered the area and his low shot, if it was a shot and not an attempt at a low ball across the area, hit Dahmen and rolled in.
Malcom got his hat-trick with five minutes remaining, pouncing on a loose ball near the penalty spot and firing home a low drive. Then came No. 9 from Sergej Milinkovic-Savic inside injury time.
History was made but more importantly, Al-Hilal are once again clear at the top. It is looking increasingly like only Al-Nassr can stop them. The Riyadh Derby next week is going to be something special.
LONDON: Mikel Arteta saluted “adorable” Kai Havertz after the German sent Arsenal to the top of the Premier League with the last-gasp goal that clinched a 1-0 win at Brentford on Saturday.
Havertz was a Champions League final hero for Chelsea in 2021, but he has endured a torrid time since crossing London to join Arsenal in the close-season.
The 24-year-old midfielder finally gave a glimpse of why Arteta splashed out £65 million ($80 million) to sign him when he headed home in the closing minutes.
Havertz’s second goal for Arsenal was his first in his last 10 appearances, moving his team one point clear of second placed Manchester City, who were held to a 1-1 draw by third placed Liverpool earlier in the day.
“That is the beautiful thing about life. When you have challenges and you have to overcome them, it makes these moments much better,” Arteta said.
“That is the reason the people reacted to him like that today. It is because he is adorable and he is a joy to work with. He fully deserves more than anybody to get that win.”
Arsenal’s third successive win in all competitions proved they have erased the bitter taste of their controversial VAR-aided defeat at Newcastle earlier in November.
Arteta’s men had already won at the Gtech Community Stadium in the League Cup in September and they left it late before making it another successful trip to west London.
“I love winning and we are top of the table. This is where we have to want to be,” Arteta said.
“When you have an opportunity to take a bite out of everybody you have to do it.
“I was really curious how the team was going to do. Winter has started, it was very cold and it is difficult coming to Brentford. I loved the way the team competed.”
With on-loan Arsenal keeper David Raya not eligible to play against his parent club, Aaron Ramsdale made his first league start since September 3.
Ramsdale’s father recently criticized Arteta’s handling of the Arsenal goalkeeping controversy, with the England international surprisingly losing his place to Raya despite recording the second most Premier League clean-sheets last season.
But Arteta’s faith in Raya received a boost when Ramsdale, his confidence clearly affected by his spell on the bench, almost gifted Brentford the lead with a horrendous mistake early in the first half.
Trying to play out from the six-yard box after Gabriel’s back-pass, Ramsdale panicked under pressure from Yoane Wissa.
Ramsdale missed his kick and the ball rolled to Bryan Mbeumo, whose shot was cleared off the line by Declan Rice before Wissa stabbed the rebound wide.
Arteta refused to be drawn on Ramsdale’s shaky performance, saying only: “I am really happy with the team and the way the team played and we kept the clean sheet.”
After a slow start from Arsenal, they finally showed signs of life when Trossard headed Oleksandr Zinchenko’s cross over before Gabriel nodded into the side-netting.
Arsenal thought they had taken the lead in the 42nd minute when Gabriel Jesus met Bukayo Saka’s cross with a header that was parried by Mark Flekken and Leandro Trossard nodded home from close-range.
But a VAR check decided Trossard was narrowly offside, giving Arteta another dose of frustration at the hands of the review system.
Brentford nearly made Arsenal pay for their lethargy as Neal Maupay’s header was brilliantly cleared off the line by the stretching Zinchenko before the French forward poked the rebound wastefully wide.
That proved a crucial moment as Havertz came off the bench to win it in the 89th minute.
Saka’s cross picked out Havertz’s run to the far post and the German guided his header past Flekken as Arteta jumped for joy on the touchline.
BERLIN: When Kevin Volland scored a late equalizer for Union Berlin, assistant coach Marie-Louise Eta pushed the team for more.
Eta had already made history on Saturday by becoming the first female assistant coach in the 60-year history of the Bundesliga, as well as in the other top divisions of Europe’s “big five” soccer leagues.
With Union bidding to end a nine-game run of German league defeats, Volland scored two minutes before the end of regulation time against Augsburg to set off celebrations of joy and relief around Union’s Stadion An der Alten Försterei. It was Union’s first goal in five games and the match ended 1-1.
Eta didn’t celebrate the goal for long, but instead encouraged her players to go for the win. There were still five minutes of injury time to play.
Kevin Behrens was blocked, Josip Juranović went close, and in the end, Union had to be content with a point as they climbed off the bottom of the standings.
“An important step in the right direction,” interim coach Marco Grote said.
Grote and Eta were appointed by Union during the international break to replace the popular Urs Fischer and assistant Markus Hoffmann. Union enjoyed unprecedented success with Fischer at the helm, but nine consecutive defeats in the Bundesliga this season forced a painful departure.
Union’s Germany international Robin Gosens said the new coaching team hadn’t changed too much.
“They didn’t want to destroy our work, or Urs Fischer’s work over the last five years,” Gosens said. “On the contrary, they said from the start that Union is what Urs Fischer has built up over the last five years, namely the mentality, giving everything we have for each other on the field. I think we showed that today.”
But Grote and Eta also brought their own ideas, Gosens said.
“What was new were two or three approaches, and two or three new ideas about how we play the spaces and get behind the defense. I think it worked quite well. We found room and good solutions,” Gosens said. “And I think the combination led to a really good game from us today.”
JEDDAH: The draw for the Next Gen ATP finals, starting in Saudi Arabia next week, was held on Saturday night.
The season-ending tournament, presented by NEOM, will be staged at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah from Nov. 28 with the final taking place on Saturday, Dec. 2.
The draw was divided into two groups. The Red group will have Luca Van Assche, Alex Michelensen, Hamad Madjedovic and Abdullah Shelbaya. While the Green group consists of Arthur Fils, Dominic Stricker, Flavio Cobolli and Luca Nardi.

The tournament is organized by the Ministry of Sports and the Saudi Tennis Federation, who signed a partnership with ATP for a period of five years until 2027.
The top eight players aged 21 or under in the 2023 ATP Tour qualified for the event, although there have been withdrawals as world No 2 Carlos Alcaraz and world No 8 Holger Rune (both 20) will not feature as they competed at the ATP Finals.
The tournament prize pot will be a record $2 million, with the champion at this year’s event set to earn $514,000.
Three matches at this year’s Next Gen ATP Finals will be worth more than $100,000. Each semi-final victory will be worth $113,500 and the championship match will yield the winner $153,000. The participation fee for each player at the event is $150,000.
JEDDAH: Jordan’s 20-year-old international tennis player Abdullah Shelbayh has urged Arab spectators to come and cheer him on as he competes in Jeddah’s Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM next week.
Having just turned 20 on Nov. 16, Shelbayh will be one of eight players to compete in the under-21 event at the Next Gen ATP Finals from Nov. 28-Dec. 2, a media statement said on Saturday.
Competing against the elite from his worldwide peer group in Saudi Arabia will be “a special moment” for Shelbayh, who alongside stars of the future Arthur Fils, Dominic Stricker, Luca Van Assche, Flavio Cobolli, Alex Michelsen, Hamad Medjedovi and Luca Nardi, will battle it out for global glory and a $514,000 top prize.
Arab support will “mean the world” to Shelbayh, who is urging as many spectators as possible to attend this year’s event at King Abdullah Sports City.
“In the tournament, I think I’ll need the support from the Arab world during the week,” says the 20-year-old, who reached the Wimbledon Junior doubles final in 2021.
“I’ll be depending on them, honestly. It’ll be very special for me to see Arab fans watch me play there.”
“In most countries in the Arab world, tennis is not as developed a sport,” said Shelbayh.
“But for me as a Jordanian, as an Arab as well, to be playing in such a special event is an honor. It’s a great way for me to show to the world — the Arab world and the whole world — that we can have talent and special players from our region.”
Born in Amman, Shelbayh is ranked 187th in the world by ATP, making him by far the region’s highest ranked male — as well as the first Jordanian tennis player to achieve an ATP world ranking.
The success of Tunisian star Ons Jabeur — the former world No.2 and three-time Grand Slam finalist who is the highest ranked Arab tennis player in both WTA and ATP rankings history — has sparked interest in tennis in the region.
Shelbayh, who describes Jabeur as having done “wonders” for tennis in the Arab world, hopes he can prove just as, or even more, inspirational as he embarks on his professional career.
“I hope I will be inspiring many young kids from the Arab world to play this sport,” said the Jordanian, who, after moving from his homeland aged 14, trained at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Spain. He then spent a year playing at the University of Florida before turning professional.
Established in 2017, previous tournaments took place in Milan before an agreement was sealed for Jeddah to host the Next Gen ATP Finals from at least 2023 to 2027.







Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *