Football: Oman’s Raed Ibrahim signs deal with top Malta club

Oman national team midfielder Raed Ibrahim (second from right), his agent Issam al Shanfari (second from left), and Valletta FC officials after the signing of a two-year deal between Raed and Valletta in Malta 

In a career-defining move, experienced Oman national team midfielder Raed Ibrahim Saleh has signed a two-year deal with Malta's multiple domestic league champions, Valletta FC, recently. This is the first time that Raed will be playing for an European club.

Raed was officially unveiled at the club premises in Valletta, the capital city of Malta last week. The 25 year old has already begun training with the squad as Valletta gears up for its commitments in the coming days in the UEFA Europa League.

Coached by Serbian Zoran Popovic, who had previously coached Omani club, Saham, the club is competing in the Europa League second qualifying round against FC Utrecht.

It held the Dutch side to a goalless draw in the first-leg to keep its hopes alive to advancing in the Europa League with the second-leg match scheduled on Thursday.

Valletta was founded in 1943 and has won the Maltese Premier League a whopping 21 times while it claimed the Maltese FA Trophy 13 times.

An 11-time winner of Maltese Super Cup, the club finished fourth in the Premier League last season.

Raed moved to Malta from Oman's Dhofar Club on a free transfer with the deal sealed by Issam al Shanfari, an Omani players’ agent.

Raed made his Oman debut in 2012 and since then has been a regular face in the national team's campaign in all major competitions.

He was a key member of Dhofar's squad in the 2016-17 season when the club clinched a historic tenth domestic league title and finished as the His Majesty's Cup runner-up, losing to Al Suwaiq.

The experienced midfielder had also played a leading role in Fanja's Omantel Professional League title win in 2015 and also featured in the club's His Majesty's Cup triumph in 2014.

Prior to joining Fanja, Raed had a six-year spell with former OPL champion Al Arouba.

The two-year deal with the Maltese club was finalised  through Shanfari, who over the past couple of years has been instrumental in clinching deals in Europe, in particular, Spain, for talented Omani footballers.

Last year, Shanfari had sealed a contract for promising 21 year old Oman Olympic team player, Azan al Tamtami, with Spanish League's Deportivo Alaves B team.

The Muscat-based Tamtami had played for FC Biel-Bienne in the Swiss Challenge League, a second-tier league in Switzerland.

Besides Tamtami, Shanfari was instrumental in helping national team defender

Mohammed Faraj al Rawahi sign a deal with Spain's Girono FC B.

With his sound contacts in Europe, Shanfari claims to have struck deals for nearly 50 players from Africa and Asia over the past couple of years.

Last year he had also managed to get trials for Salah al Yahyai of Seeb Club with Spanish League's Osasuna.

Besides Tamtami, Rawahi and now Raed, the other Omani players who had played in

Europe so far have been Ali al Habsi, who recently bade goodbye to European football after 14 years, and striker Imad al Hosni, who had a season (2009-10) with Belgian club RC Charleroi.

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