Saudi Professional League: Al Hilal beat Bologna to Colombia midfielder Gustavo Cuellar

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Saudi Professional League giants Al Hilal have flexed their financial muscle and beaten Serie A’s Bologna to the €7.5 million purchase of Flamengo defensive midfielder Gustavo Cuellar.

Cuellar, 26, excelled during 167 appearances in Brazil since his arrival from Deportivo Cali in January 2016. This reputation was strengthened upon selection by Colombia for the 2019 Copa America, a competition in which he made one start against Paraguay.

Bologna had been made the early favourite to snap the anchor man up. They could not, however, compete with the lucrative terms on offer at King Saud University Stadium for a contract that runs until 2023.

Significant changes to the Crescent’s seven-man foreign quota in the build-up to Saturday’s transfer deadline also saw Spanish centre-back Alberto Botia depart for Al Wehda and Segunda Division’s Girona offer a new home to underutilised compatriot Jonathan Soriano. Reintegrated Syria forward Omar Khrbin netted twice in the weekend’s ominous 5-0 dismantling of Al Raed.

Former South Korea centre-back Jang Hyun-soo replaced Australia’s Milos Degenek last month in the first major piece of business conducted by new coach Razvan Lucescu.

A new one-year deal for veteran midfielder Mohammad Al Shalhoub, 38, extends his Hilal career into a 22nd year.

Hilal hope their business will ensure a first AFC Champions League crown since the competition’s inauguration in 2002, plus steal back Riyadh rivals Al Nassr’s SPL title.

Other major transactions conducted in the Saudi top flight were Al Shabab’s capture of Senegal and Villarreal midfielder Alfred N’Diaye, plus Al Ahli Jeddah snapping up Nantes left-back Lucas Lima.

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