Al Ittihad aim to extend perfect start as Mohamed Salah rumours intensify

Fourth round of Saudi Pro League to be played on Monday and Tuesday

Karim Benzema, N'Golo Kante and Fabinho all joined Al Ittihad this summer and have helped the club to a perfect start to the season. AFP
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Defending champions Al Ittihad will aim to extend their perfect start to the Saudi Pro League season when they travel to Al Wehda on Monday as rumours linking the club with a move for Liverpool star Mohamed Salah continue to intensify.

Ittihad have started the campaign with three straight wins as marquee summer signing Karim Benzema scored his first league goal last time out in the 4-0 win over Al Riyadh.

As the Jeddah giants prepare for their trip to the King Abdul Aziz Stadium, the big news surrounding the club focuses on their reported interest in Egyptian star Salah.

Ittihad had been keen to sign the 31-year-old forward earlier in the summer, prompting Salah's agent, Ramy Abbas Issa, to take to social media to deny the rumours. However, the Saudi side revived their interest in Salah this week and are reportedly prepared to break the Saudi transfer record to land their man.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp responded on Friday by insisting there was "nothing" to the speculation and that he expects his star player to remain at Anfield. In the days since then, though, various media outlets have reported that Salah has expressed a desire to leave for Ittihad and that Sunday's match against Newcastle could be his last for Liverpool.

Should Salah make the move to Ittihad, it would significantly bolster the club's trophy ambitions and continue to enhance the profile of the Saudi Pro League, which has seen several big stars arrive this summer.

He could also be the fourth player to leave Liverpool for Saudi clubs this summer, following Roberto Firmino's move to Al Ahli, Jordan Henderson to Al Ettifaq, and Fabinho, with whom he would immediately reunite at Ittihad.

Former teammate Sadio Mane, who left Liverpool for Bayern Munich last summer, is also in Saudi having joined Cristiano Ronaldo at Al Nassr last month.

Al Hilal are also in action on Monday evening aiming to maintain their unbeaten start, and the Riyadh giants are another club to have experienced a transformative summer of player recruitment, headlined by the record arrival of Brazilian forward Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain.

If Hilal want to keep pace with Ittihad and Al Ahli – second only on goal difference – they will need to beat Steven Gerrard's Ettifaq, although the record 18-time champions will still be without Neymar, who is working his way back to fitness from a long-term ankle injury.

Fortunately for Hilal, manager Jorge Jesus he can still call on new striker Aleksandar Mitrovic, who scored on his debut in the 4-0 win over Al Raed on Thursday, as well as Brazilian winger Malcom – the team's hat-trick hero on the opening weekend.

Ahli, meanwhile, will be favourites to claim a fourth straight win when they host Al Taee on Tuesday. The Jeddah side, who gained promotion last season and are spearheaded by Firmino, Riyad Mahrez, and Allan Saint-Maximin, further strengthened their squad this week with the signing of Gabri Veiga from Celta Vigo.

Should Nassr's title rivals all win, they will be under pressure to beat Al Shabab on Tuesday to avoid falling further off the pace. Nassr lost their opening two games but bounced back with a 5-0 win against Al Fateh, with Ronaldo helping himself to a hat trick.

Updated: August 27, 2023, 12:48 PM