Muscat: Now it’s just a matter of time for Omani legend Ali Al Habsi to ink the deal with Saudi Professional League side Al Hilal.
The Arab football hero, who expressed his desire to leave the English Championship side Reading FC just days after the English football’s 2017 summer transfer window opened, has left England for Saudi Arabian capital city of Riyadh on Saturday night.
Ali’s brother Ahmed Al Habsi confirmed to Times Sport that Ali is expected to arrive in Riyadh late on Saturday evening.
Ahmed, a former board member of the Oman Football Association, has already reached the Saudi city but refused to delve into the details of Ali’s imminent move to Al Hilal.
“All I can confirm at this moment is Ali is arriving tonight. Nothing less and nothing more,” Ahmed said.
But it looks like the deal is more or less finalised and Ali will sign the contract in a day or two. The 2017 summer transfer window of English football closes on August 31.
Ali Al Habsi, who played a stellar role in revival of Reading FC’s fortunes and took Jaap Stam’s Championship side tantalisingly close to Premier League promotion last season, was also linked with two English clubs - West Bromwich Albion and Leicester City.
According to the British media reports Ali also attracted enquiries from other Saudi Arabia clubs including Al Ittihad, Al Nassr FC and Al Batin FC.
But Al Hilal were the only club to have made a formal approach to Reading FC to talk to Ali Al Habsi.
The 35-year-old Omani legend is said to have decided to move back to the Gulf region to be close to home and after considering factors like financial security and more importantly the playing time.
A first choice keeper at Reading FC, Ali won two back-to-back ‘player of the year’ awards with the English Championship side.
First Omani to ply his trade in Europe, the Omani captain first played for Norway’s Lyn Oslo for 2003-06 before moving to England where he signed for Bolton Wanderers.
In 2010, Bolton loaned him to Wigan Athletic. In 2011, Ali permanently moved to Wigan on a four-year deal. After one-month loan period with Brighton and Hove Albion where he played just one match, Ali moved to Reading FC in 2015.
At the beginning this year, Ali signed a contract extension to stay at the Reading FC till 2018-19 season.