Saudi soccer club Al Hilal has signed Morocco international soccer striker Youssef El Arabi for a four-year deal estimated at about 20 million Euro from the French side Caen.
The 24-year old player scored 17 goals in France’s Ligue 1 last season, helping massively to keep the northern French club in the French top-flight after relegation.
Mr. Arabi had been linked to Italian side Genoa, so his move to Saudi Arabia has come as a surprise to some.
Media reports have pointed to a possible role Morocco’s national coach Belgian Eric Gerets in brokering the deal between Mr. Arabi and Al Hilal club. Mr. Gerets had coached the Saudi club before moving to Morocco in 2010 on four-year contract.
Mr. Arabi has said Mr. Gerets had given him “advice” and helped him with information about the Saudi club, but did not say whether Gerets had any actual touch on the deal.
Mr. Arabi captained the French under-21 before catching the eyes of Morocco national team scouts, where his parents are originally from, last season.
In September 2010 he was offered the chance to play for the Atlas Lions in an African Nations Cup qualifier against Central African Republic.
At the time he said had opted to play for Morocco and follow in the footsteps of Marouane Chamakh, another French-born player who chose to pledge his international career to the homeland of his parents.
(Mustapha Ajbaili, Night Editor of Al Arabiya English, can be reached at: Mustapha.firstname.lastname@example.org)