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When meeting Omar Al-Somah at the 2019 Asian Cup, I asked him what ambitions he had left in his career as he approached his 30th birthday.

“I just want to score as many goals as possible and help my club and my country win as many games as possible,” he replied. He may regret missing out on the World Cup with Syria, but when it comes to his club career, his achievements will one day be considered legendary.

There are always headlines and attention given to great foreign strikers coming to the Saudi Professional League, and that’s understandable. The likes of Odion Ighalo and Bafetimbi Gomis arrived in the country with CVs full of international appearances and spells with big clubs in the major leagues. Yet there are strikers from other Arab nations who come in and score more and do so for longer. Abderrazak Hamdallah is one. The Moroccan sniper has only played 82 league games in Saudi Arabia for Al-Nassr and now Al-Ittihad and found the target 87 times.

And then there is Al-Somah, the most consistent of them all. No foreign striker has scored so much in SPL history and, after joining Al-Ahli in 2014, he eventually left and joined Al-Arabi on loan for a season, a deal that will cost the Qatari club what will surely be a bargain of 3.2 million dollars.

It was only following Al-Ahli’s shock relegation last season that he left.

The second tier is no place for a player of such talents and there were plenty of offers from across the region, but Al-Ahli preferred a loan.

This is because his stats are something special. Al-Somah played 240 games in all competitions for the Jeddah giants and scored 192 goals and provided 30 assists. His 144 league goals are a record for a foreign player. The only other non-Saudi star in the top 10 all-time scorers is Hamdallah.

From 2014 to 2017, the eastern Syria striker won the Golden Boot in three consecutive seasons. His goals played a big part in Al-Ahli winning their fourth title in 2016 as well as bringing other trophies such as the Saudi Super Cup, King’s Cup and Saudi Crown Prince’s Cup to the Red Sea port.

It is with a heavy heart that he leaves his nearly decade-old home.

“I played eight years with Al-Ahli,” he said. “During this period, I helped win the league championship and was the league’s top scorer three times, but the most important thing is collective success. I am leaving Al-Ahly after so long and it’s a shock, but I will do my best to adapt to my new team.

“I know the Al-Arabi club and I am honored to play in the Qatari league and hope to leave an imprint in the team,” Al-Somah said.

It should do just that. Before arriving in Saudi Arabia, he scored numerous goals for his hometown club Al-Fotuwa before joining Kuwaiti giants Al-Qadsia in 2011, where he went on to score nearly one goal per game for three seasons.

It’s a testament to the quality of Al-Somah’s marksmanship that a tally of 22 goals in the past two seasons seems relatively low.

By then, Al-Ahli was fading as a force and the warnings that came with finishing mid-table in the 2020-21 season were not heeded, or at least not addressed. adequately. With Al-Ahli struggling, there wasn’t as much possession and control in games and fewer chances were created. The striker has slowed down a bit as he passed his 33rd birthday and the power isn’t as explosive.

He will still mark a moment but whatever happens, the Syrian leaves Saudi Arabia as a legend. If Al-Ahli had maintained his standards, he could have become the Asian Champions League’s top scorer, but as things stand, his 25 means he’s number seven on the all-time list. .

Al-Somah also reminds that it’s not just about buying players from South American clubs, the English Premier League or Ligue 1.

He arrived from Kuwait in 2014 when few would have predicted he would last so many seasons and score so many goals for Al-Ahli. As trades went, it wasn’t considered the biggest or the most exciting, but it was one of the most successful.

In fact, it was legendary and whether he returns to terrorize the Saudi defenses again or not, Omar Al-Somah will never be forgotten.