Meeting Omar Al-Somah at the 2019 Asian Cup, I asked him what ambitions he had remaining in his career with his 30th birthday fast approaching.
“I just want to score as many goals as possible and help my club and country win as many games as possible,” he replied. He may feel some regret about not appearing at the World Cup with Syria, but when it comes to his club career his achievements will one day be seen as legendary.
There are always headlines and attention given to the big-name foreign strikers who come to the Saudi Professional League, and understandably so. The likes of Odion Ighalo and Bafetimbi Gomis arrived in the country with resumes full of international appearances and spells with big clubs in big leagues. Yet, there are forwards from other Arab nations that come and score more and do so for longer. Abderrazak Hamdallah is one. The Moroccan marksman has played just 82 league games in Saudi Arabia for Al-Nassr and now Al-Ittihad and has found the target an incredible 87 times.
And then there is Al-Somah, the most consistent of all. No foreign striker has scored as many in the history of the SPL and, after joining Al-Ahli in 2014, he has finally departed and joined Al-Arabi on loan for one season, a deal that will cost the Qatari club what will surely be a bargain amount of $3.2 million.
It was only following Al-Ahli’s shock relegation last season that he left.
The second tier is no place for a player of such talents and there were plenty of offers from across the region but Al-Ahli preferred a loan move.
That is because his statistics are something special. Al-Somah played 240 games in all competitions for the Jeddah giants and scored an amazing 192 goals and contributed 30 assists. His 144 league goals are a record for a foreign player. The only other non-Saudi star in the top 10 all-time goalscorers is Hamdallah.
From 2014 to 2017, the striker from the east of Syria won the Golden Boot in three consecutive seasons. His goals played a big part in Al-Ahli winning their fourth title in 2016 as well as bringing other trophies such as the Saudi Super Cup, the King’s Cup and the Saudi Crown Prince Cup to the Red Sea Port.
It is with a heavy heart that he leaves his home of almost a decade.
“I played eight years with Al-Ahli,” he said. “During that time I helped win the league championship and was the league’s top scorer three times, but the most important thing is the collective achievement. I leave Al-Ahly after such a long time and it comes as a shock but I will try my best to adapt to my new team.”
“I know Al-Arabi Club and I am honored to play in the Qatari league and I hope to leave an imprint with the team,” Al-Somah said.
He should do just that. Before arriving in Saudi Arabia, he scored plenty of goals for his hometown club of Al-Fotuwa before moving to Kuwaiti giants Al-Qadsia in 2011, where he continued to score almost a goal a game over three seasons.
It is testament to the quality of Al-Somah’s marksmanship that a total of 22 goals over the past two seasons seems relatively small.
By that time, Al-Ahli were fading as a force and the warnings that came with the mid-table finish in the 2020-21 season were not heeded, or at least, not dealt with adequately. With Al-Ahli struggling, there was not as much possession and control in games and fewer chances were created. The striker has slowed a little as he passed his 33rd birthday and the power is not quite as explosive.
He will still score for a while yet but whatever happens, the Syrian leaves Saudi Arabia as a legend. Had Al-Ahli maintained their standards, he could have become the record goalscorer in the Asian Champions League though as it stands, his 25 means that he is number seven on the all-time list.
Al-Somah also leaves a reminder that it is not all about buying players from South American, English Premier League or Ligue 1 clubs.
He arrived from Kuwait back in 2014 when few would have predicted that he would last so many seasons and score so many goals for Al-Ahli. As deals go, it wasn’t seen as the biggest or the most exciting but it has been one of the most successful.
In fact, it has been legendary and whether he returns to terrorize Saudi Arabian defenses again or not, Omar Al-Somah will never be forgotten.