Al Ahli Jeddah take Leonardo lead as Al Ain and Al Nasr hopes recede

Saudi Professional League giants seem likely destination for free-scoring star

Matt Monaghan
by Matt Monaghan
25th July 2017

article:25th July 2017

Kingdom's calling: Leonardo in action for Partizan Belgrade (Getty).
Kingdom's calling: Leonardo in action for Partizan Belgrade (Getty).

Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli Jeddah have emerged as leading contenders to seal the signature of prolific Partizan Belgrade forward Leonardo, ending lingering hopes of a switch to the Arabian Gulf League.

Leonardo, 25, has been of interest to both Al Ain and Al Nasr at various stages of this summer after his representatives offered him to leading clubs across the region for a fee in excess of €5 million (Dh21.5m). This follows a productive debut campaign during which he netted 24 times in 34 appearances as Crno-beli – The Black-Whites – lifted an eighth Serbian Super Liga.

A desire to earn a lucrative switch elsewhere saw Partizan agree to sell him once their fate in the UEFA Champions League qualifiers is sealed. Their third-round tie against Greece’s Olympiacos begins late on Tuesday night.

Ahly have made major head way to ensure they will snap Leonardo up before August 6’s deadline to be registered for the latter stages of the 2017 AFC Champions League.

Al Ain had investigated making the former Anzhi Makhachkala attacker their fourth foreigner, but Partizan’s financial demands allied with doubts about the player’s calibre saw coach Zoran Mamic announce an intention to re-register Brazilian striker Douglas two weeks ago.

Nasr also expressed interest to Leonardo’s representatives. Yet they have been subsequently linked to unwanted Internacional loanee Marcelo Cirino.

Meanwhile, Al Ain outcast Danilo Asprilla looks likely to find a new home at promoted Saudi Professional League-outfit Al Fayha.

Asprilla, 28, did not travel to Austria with his team-mates for an ongoing summer training camp after he was ruled surplus to requirements. The erratic Colombian winger had been in negotiations about a €1.5m (Dh6.4m) exit to Turkey’s Bursaspor, prior to them collapsing this week.

Reports in the Kingdom have stated Fayha have stepped into the breach for the January 2016 signing from Bulgaria’s Litex Lovech.