Times of Oman
Jul 20, 2017 Last Updated at 15:35 AST
Oman Football: Al Habsi leaves Reading for Saudi club Al Hilal
July 17, 2017 | 9:35 PM
by Gautam [email protected]
Photo: Al-Hilal Saudi F.C./Twitter
 
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Muscat: Ali Al Habsi has officially been unveiled as an Al Hilal player, after completing his move to the Saudi Arabian giants on Sunday evening.

The Omani goalkeeping legend arrived in Riyadh with his brother, Ahmed, on Saturday, and put pen to paper on a three-year-deal with the capital club.

The move sees him leave English Championship side Reading after two years with the Berkshire-based club, and although he is moving onto new challenges, Ali hasn't forgotten his supporters back in the UK, posting an emotive message for them on his Twitter page.

"Today I officially announce that I am moving to Al Hilal FC, one of the greatest clubs in Saudi Arabia and Asia," said Al Habsi. "It was surely a tough decision to take. I have spent a great two years at Reading. It felt like home with friends, family and teammates. No one can imagine the love and support that I received from the fans and the club. It was a one-of-a-kind experience.

"I am sure that Reading will do great next season, especially with a perfect manager like Jaap Stam," he added. "You will push forward and will have excellent results. Much love, Ali."

The 35-year-old goalkeeper's move had been announced by Al Hilal Club on their official pages in the wee hours of Monday morning, as he posed for official photos with Prince Nawaf Bin Saad, Chairman of Al Hilal.

"Thanks to Prince Nawaf Bin Saad for his confidence and his quest to be with us, and for managing this club in such a professional manner," tweeted Al Habsi, in the aftermath of his new club posting official artwork of Oman's national team captain in their signature blue strip.

Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal, also of the Saudi Royal Family, was quick to hail Al Hilal's capture of such a seasoned professional.

"I would like to announce to the public the capture of the Oman national team goalkeeper, Ali Al Habsi," he tweeted to his seven million followers.

Al Habsi's brother, Sulaiman, was also happy to see him move to the Saudi capital.

"I am really happy for Ali's transfer to Al Hilal Club," he told Times of Oman. "15 years in Europe was sufficient to build Ali's personality. he played for four clubs with many good achievements, the best being his FA Cup success in 2013.

"I think the timing of this transfer, in my opinion, is perfect, because he left Reading as the Player of the season," added Sulaiman. "I wish him a good future with Al Hilal over the next three seasons."

Al Habsi holds the distinction of being the only footballer from the Gulf to play in the Premier League. He joined Norwegian side Lyn Oslo in 2003, before making the move to the Premier League with Bolton Wanderers three years later. After four years at the Reebok Stadium, he switched to Wigan Athletic, winning the FA Cup with the Latics in 2013.

He then moved to Championship side Reading in 2015, and his time with the Royals saw him agonisingly miss out out a return to the Premier League last season, with his team beating Fulham 2-1 on aggregate in the play-offs, before losing 5-4 to Huddersfield Town on penalties.


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