Al Hilal recruit former Manchester United striker Odion Ighalo from title rivals Al Shabab

Nigerian striker is currently top scorer in the 2021/22 Saudi Pro League with 12 goals

Odion Ighalo, left, in action for Nigeria during a 2022 World Cup qualifier against Cape Verde in November. AFP
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Al Hilal have signed former Manchester United striker Odion Ighalo from Saudi Arabian rivals Al Shabab.

The Nigerian international, currently the top scorer in this season’s Saudi Pro League with 12 goals, was confirmed as the champions’ new recruit early on Sunday. He signed a one-and-a-half-year contract with the Riyadh side.

Hilal, the current Asian champions, had last week announced the departure of hugely popular striker Bafetimbi Gomis. The Frenchman left the club having helped fired Hilal to twin domestic league titles and two Asian Champions League crowns.

Ighalo, 32, is expected the go into the club’s squad for the upcoming Fifa Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi. HIlal enter that competition at the quarter-final stage, where they will face either UAE champions Al Jazira or Oceania representatives AS Pirae, of Tahiti, on February 6.

Ighalo has played in Saudi since leaving United in January 2021 following a year-long loan period. The frontman, who had excelled previously in the Premier League for Watford, was employed at the time by Shanghai Shenhua. In 2019, Ighalo finished top scorer at the African Cup of Nations, with five goals.

The move to Saudi reaped almost instant reward, with Ighalo voted the league’s player of the month in April and May as Shabab finished second to Hilal in the standings.

At present, Shabab sit third in the league, seven points behind leaders Al Ittihad and three ahead of fourth-placed Hilal. However, Hilal do have a game in hand over their city rivals.

Speaking on his social media account once the move was confirmed, Ighalo tweeted: “Thank you Al Shabab. It was a pleasure.”

Meanwhile, Hilal have also confirmed that midfielder Luciano Vietto has moved to Shabab on a six-month loan.

Updated: January 30, 2022, 5:20 AM