Alvaro Medran was one of the first names on Steven Gerrard’s wish list as Al Ettifaq look to improve upon a frustrating first half of the season in the Roshn Saudi League.
The former Al Taawoun playmaker was the first signing of a busy transfer window for the Dammam-based side in which they signed no fewer than seven players.
As Gerrard has referenced, eight-placed Al Ettifaq are in need of creativity: up until the RSL break for the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023, they had racked up 22 goals - one of the lowest tallies in the division.
While defensively stable – as a quirk of fate, Al Ettifaq have conceded 22 also, giving them the joint-third best tally in the division - it was goals and assists that have been seemingly lacking in Gerrard’s side.
They have not been helped, of course, by lead striker Moussa Dembele missing a large chunk of game-time through injury.
Medran, though, will certainly add a level of flair having already racked up eight assists this season while at Al Taawoun – only Al Nassr’s Cristiano Ronaldo has more, with nine – and believes his education in Spanish football can be an asset for the team.
“In Spain, we have the culture to have the ball, to keep the ball, to play good football - that is my kind of game,” Medran said in an interview with the RSL. “To keep the ball, to play good football, to show we have quality. So, for me it's a good combination.”
The wolf has entered the building 🐺🤩pic.twitter.com/3MeuXoSvjT— Ettifaq Club (@Ettifaq_EN) January 26, 2024
Medran initially thrived at Al Taawoun under the guidance of experienced Brazilian coach Pericles Chamusca. Gerrard will be hoping for a similar relationship with the former Real Madrid youth prospect, who suggests that he needs to play with a certain level of creativity to be at his very best.
“[Chamusca] didn’t know me, I didn't know him when he arrived,” Medran said. “But in preseason I think the team was already complete with the foreigners and there was patience with us and the Saudi people.
“He always told me to play with freedom. He just let me play with freedom and, for me, that is very important.”
One of the hallmarks of Al Ettifaq’s foreign January signings has been their experience of the RSL. Cote d’Ivoire midfielder Seko Fofana comes after six months in Riyadh at Al Nassr, while Cameroon striker Karl Toko Ekambi also enjoyed a stint at Abha.
Medran certainly falls into that bracket also. The playmaker has admitted that he has settled into life in the Kingdom, including getting recognised on a recent trip to the capital.
“When I was in Riyadh, lots of people asked me for pictures,” he said. “That made me happy because I think football [in Saudi Arabia] is growing up, the people love football and people are appreciative of the players.
“For me, it's a happy moment going to another city, a big city; to have people that know me was a good feeling.”
So with a mixture of creativity, flair and a dash of RSL know-how, Medran will be aiming to overturn the fortunes of Al Ettifaq as they look to gate-crash the top-four picture.
After settling so well in the Kingdom, you can only imagine that Ettifaq’s new No.14 can add that level of guile that his new side needs.
It will be interesting to see how Medran and this new-look Al Ettifaq side fair when they head to Al Khaleej when the 2023-24 RSL season resumes on February 15.