Fergie - Saudi players will make it
Sir Alex Ferguson believes that Saudi players could soon make the breakthrough into English football.
By Chris Burton
Last Updated: 22/01/08 11:12am
Sir Alex Ferguson believes that players from Saudi Arabia could soon make the breakthrough into English football.
The Manchester United boss feels that the success of Asian football over the past decade has shown that development is possible if the right methods are introduced.
Players such as Park Ji-Sung, Hidetoshi Nakata, Junichi Inamoto and Lee Young-Pyo have all enjoyed success in England and across Europe, but despite qualifying for four consecutive World Cups, Saudi Arabia is yet to provide a similar stream of players.
Sami Al Jaber spent a brief and unproductive season with Championship side Wolves in 2001, but that remains the only time a Saudi Arabian player has featured for an English side and Ferguson feels that the country must improve their game at the grass roots level if they are to avoid similar failures in the future.
"Twenty years ago, you would never have expected to see Japanese or Korean footballers playing for big clubs in Europe," he said.
"But they are now performing for top teams in Germany, Italy and England and that's because of the change in attitude over the years in those countries.
"What the likes of Japan and South Korea have done well is develop their young players and that is the key. Once you get the foundations in place, with good professional coaches teaching youngsters, it is amazing how quickly things can happen.
"Things are moving in Saudi Arabia. The standard of football is very good, but it is all about youth level and developing those young players.
"Once you get one player from a country playing in a big league overseas, it does so much for the profile and the reputation of that country."
Ferguson and his multi-national squad are currently in the Middle East as part of a mid-season break and the United boss has not ruled out the possibility of a Saudi player turning out at Old Trafford at some point in the future.
"I have 20 different nationalities in my squad at Manchester United and the door is open to any footballer in the world, no matter where they come from, if they have the talent to play for the club," he said.