17. Fahad Al-Muwallad (New Entry)
Al-Ittihad (KSA) / Saudi Arabia / Attacker
Words by Wael Jabir
Fahad Al-Muwallad will remember 2016 as the year he went from being just an old fashioned pacey winger with limited end-product to a national hero and one third of Saudi Football’s deadliest attacking trio at club level.
The 22 year old had scored a total of 22 league goals in 95 appearances during his first five seasons of professional football prior to the 2016/17 season. 15 games into this campaign, he has already scored 11.
The Jeddah born winger first became known to football fans outside the kingdom a couple of years ago, as his lightning pace earned him a place among the fastest players in world football according to the 2015 edition of the video game FIFA. Domestically, Fahad (incidentally Arabic for cheetah) continues to blow hot and cold, one game terrorising opposition defences, the next frustrating his own team’s fans with his Jesus Navas-esque finishing and deliveries from the wing.
The arrival of Chilean manager Jose Luis Sierra to Ittihad coupled with the signings of Egyptian winger Mahmoud Kahraba & Chilean playmaker Carlos Villanueva transformed Saudi Arabia’s oldest club into an attacking machine and genuine title challengers; leading the league table at the halfway point. Al-Muwallad benefited greatly and his goals per game ratio has since more than quintupled.
Highlight of the year – A Goal of The Year Contender
Saudi Arabia are somewhat surprisingly leading their World Cup qualification group ahead of the likes of Japan and Australia. The highlight of their campaign came in a dominant 3-0 victory against gulf rivals UAE in Jeddah.
After a solid first half, the game was still goalless and Bert van Marwijk had to react. Saudi Arabia’s Dutch manager pulled out veteran Nasser Al-Shamrani and introduced Al-Muwallad in a fairly unusual central role. The cheetah didn’t disappoint and within 6 minutes of his introduction he was making a diagonal run behind the Emirati defence as a beautifully weighted long chipped pass was delivered behind the Whites centre-backs.
Al-Muwallad met Salman Al-Faraj’s super pass with a ferocious right-footed Van Persie-esque volley that sent King Abdullah Stadium into raptures. Not only was it a marvellous goal, a deadlock breaker but also one that announced Al-Muwallad’s coming of age as a true star of Saudi and Asian football.