On January 21 there was a surprise in LaLiga with the arrival of nine Saudi Arabia international players in Primera and Segunda in a kind of draft arranged between Spain and the Arab nation, with the players spending the second half of 2017-18 on loan.
The idea is mutually beneficial: the players gain valuable experience ahead of the World Cup in Russia, with the Green Falcons in Groupa A with Russia, Egypt and Uruguay and the Liga clubs receive an economic sweetener and a full international, as well as the marketing opportunities the new incorporation brings.
The move was received with incredulity at Levante, where fans were hoping for a new striker or a central midfielder with a proven track record in LaLiga or another European league. What they got, according to Fernando Sanz, La Liga's Middle East and North Africa General Director and son of former Real Madrid president Lorenzo Sanz, is the “Saudi Arabian Messi” - Fahad Al-Muwallad.
Liga clubs take advantage of Saudi deal
As well as Levante, Villarreal, Leganés Levante, Rayo Vallecano, Numancia, Sporting and Valladolid, will play the role of guinea pigs for the new venture.
In the case of The Frogs, Al-Muwallad was not a name picked out of a hat. Sporting director Tito attended two Saudi Arabia training sessions to run the rule over the 23-year-old winger, who has 40 international caps already, and was swayed by the need to replace Samu García. Swift, powerful and with an eye for goal (35 in 117 league games for Al-Ittihad) Al-Muwallad could be one of the signings of the winter.