When Bafetimbi Gomis, Sebastian Giovinco, Ahmed Musa, Brad Jones and Andre Carrillo landed in Saudi Arabia in 2018/19, the nation’s clubs made a statement.
With the support of the General Sports Authority, one of the world’s best-supported competitions should make a necessary impression – even beyond the borders of the Kingdom. Amid the hype generated by the thousands of fans who packed King Khalid International Airport to greet some of these standout additions, other less sublime purchases made less headlines.
Fast forward to March 2021 and only Gomis and Abderrazak Hamdallah can undeniably be considered greater achievements in the Saudi Professional League than Romarinho.
The Brazilian is both a figurehead of what can be achieved – and where much of the league’s business is going.
Romarinho’s roller coaster ride with Al Ittihad reached new heights last weekend. The pictures of the 7 million euro commitment of Al Jazira, who weighed the match point after his first hat trick in Saudi Arabia in the 4-2 triumph against Al Wehda, showed a commendable impact and the path he took for the wild tigers Has.
Romarinho was twice the often lonely, shining light on a rudderless outfit that turned away from the relegation zone when it died. Now he’s the third-highest scorer by a third club claiming to end a 12-year SPL title drought.
These ambitions face an endurance test against surprise leader Al Shabab on Wednesday.
Argentine underdog Ever Banega and former Manchester United borrower Odion Ighalo oppose it. Ittihad no longer has names with a similar cache.
But the shrewd management of Fabio Carille and Romarinho’s extraordinary example on the pitch got this fallen giant off his knees.
The 30-year-old is the SPL’s fourth highest scorer since kick-off in 2018/19 with 42 goals and is just behind the incomparable trio of Al Nassrs Hamdallah, Gomis and Al Ahli Jeddah’s Syrian superstar Omar Al Somah.
None of them faced the real danger of relegation during this period.
In Ittihad, Romarinho is 22 more than inconsistent Serbian killer Aleksandar Prijovic and 23 more than Saudi star Fahad Al Muwallad, who was hampered by a protracted ban.
Subtract the strikes of the former and the Jeddah outfit would surely have been downgraded for the first time in its 94 year history.
Romarinho’s rise over Ittihad’s troubles also puts him fourth on the division’s all-time scoring list for Brazilians.
However, it was only bought as jewelry.
Greater expectations were placed on Curacao € 9m winger Garry Rodrigues, Morocco € 4.5m central defender Manuel da Costa and even international loanee Valdivia. Nobody touched the standards that his teammate had set.
Romarinho’s career has largely been spent outside of the game’s spotlight. He was a replacement for Corinthians before he was successful with El Jaish in Qatar and with Jazira in the United Arab Emirates.
But it is precisely the joy he had previously enjoyed in the region that increased the chances of prosperity in King Abdullah Sports City.
Banega, Gomis, and Ighalo players will continue to be brought into the kingdom. But their number has decreased.
Small to medium-sized purchases will dominate, and elite-free agents will complement them.
A seismic € 194.7 million after Transfermarkt.comwas issued by the 16 SPL pages during 2018/19. This decreased to EUR 77.5 million in 2019/20 and to EUR 50.3 million in 2020/21.
Saudi challengers should focus on identifying as many Romarinhos as possible instead of dreaming about the next Gomis. It just makes sense.
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