Jones set to be cut loose despite Saudi success

Brad Jones in action for Al-Nassr Source: AAP

Despite proving himself as the best goalkeeper in Saudi Arabia for the second successive season, the time of Brad Jones at Al-Nassr looks to be coming to an end.

The Australian shot-stopper has kept 12 clean sheets in the Saudi Pro League with just one game of the campaign remaining, two more than closest challenger Farouk Ben Mustapha of Al Shabab, as Al-Nassr conceded the fewest goals in the league.

The former Feyenoord man topped the standings, along with Maksym Koval, last season too as Al-Nassr won an eighth league title.

This year however, the club has had to settle for second as Riyadh rivals Al Hilal took the championship.

Such stellar form over the past two years is unlikely to prevent Jones from an Al-Nassr exit, however.

Officials at the club told The World Game on Tuesday that the 38-year-old is to be excluded from the list of players to be registered for the resumption of the AFC Champions League next week.

On September 15 Al-Nassr will take on Iranian club Sepahan in the western zone ‘hub’ of Qatar. Each team is allowed to name four foreign players in their squads, one of which is reserved for players from member nations of the Asian Football Confederation.

“The coach Rui Vittoria has not announced the four foreign players officially but the Asian player will be Kim Jin-su,” an Al-Nassr official said.

The Saudi Arabian club rushed through the signing of Kim from Jeonbuk Motors, paying an undisclosed - though rumoured to be significant - fee to sign the international left-back at the end of August even though he would have been available on a free transfer on January 1, 2021.

The reason was to register Kim, whose K League salary of around $1.6 million was reportedly almost trebled by his new club, for the Champions League.

It leaves the future of Jones up in the air especially as Al-Nassr, who are looking to reduce the number of foreign players in their domestic squad, have signed a new goalkeeper in their northern summer spending spree.

23-year-old Saudi glovesman Amin Al-Bukhari has joined the team from Al Ittihad and is set to be the main man between the sticks for the Champions League.

There is no shortage of admirers of Jones in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Middle East due to his consistently excellent performances.

Top tier Saudi side Al-Fahya FC are just one of several rumoured to be interested in the ex-Liverpool man.

One foreign addition at Al-Nassr is Argentine star Pity Martinez, signed on Monday from Atlanta United.

The 2018 South American Player of the Year cost a reported $25 million and will be in the squad that continues Group D of the Champions League that sees the Riyadh club joint top with Al-Sadd of Qatar with four points from the opening two games.

With serious ambitions of lifting the trophy, Al-Nassr are spending big but where that will leave Brad Jones, the best goalkeeper in Saudi Arabia since arriving in August 2018, in early December when the final is scheduled to take place remains to be seen.