Middle East Football: Move over Messi, Bounedjah is now the world's greatest goal machine

Middle East Football: Move over Messi, Bounedjah is now the world's greatest goal machine
It's not every season a Middle Eastern player grabs top spot in the worldwide scorers' chart, but in the past weekend, Al-Sadd’s Algerian striker made worldwide headlines.

4 min read
12 Dec, 2018
Bounedjah (L) has scored more goals this year than Messi or Ronaldo [Getty]

Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi... Meet the new goal machine, Baghdad Bounedjah.

It's not every season that a Middle Eastern player grabs top spot in the worldwide scorers' chart, but this past weekend, Al-Sadd's Algerian striker made worldwide headlines. 

In the team's 4-1 victory against Al-Shahaniya, Bounedjah was on the scoresheet for the seventh match in a row, with a brace, but this time it was even more special than usual.

With those two goals, the 27-year-old set a new record in the Qatari League, as the player with the most goals in a single season - 28.

What's more, Bounedjah has set this record from just 14 games, while the former record holder, Clemerson de Araújo Soares, took 27 games to score 27 goals back in 2007. 

Bounedjah is a true goal machine. Earlier this season, he scored seven goals in a single match, with Al-Sadd beating Al-Arabi 10-1 in the league.

In 2018, he has nailed no fewer than 58 goals, standing above players including Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who have scored 47 and 45 respectively.

Bounedjah scored 39 goals in 19 Qatari Super League matches, 13 goals in 12 Asian Champions League matches, six goals in eight games with the Algerian national team - and played two matches in the Qatari Crown Prince Cup without scoring. 

In total: 42 matches, 58 goals and a ratio of 1.38 goals per game. That's an almost surreal achievement for the Algerian, who grew up in the northern city of Oran, as he blazes a trail in the world of Middle Eastern football.

With another goal in the win against Al-Duhail this week, it seems the world's top scorer this year will come from the Middle East. Rumours are already connecting him to Olympique Marseille from France's Ligue 1.

After years of dominance by Al-Hilal, Al-Nassr is showing signs of a being a competitive side this season

Riyadh derby

On Saturday afternoon, all eyes in the region turned to Riyadh, where the derby of the Saudi capital took place between Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr. Around 25,000 fans filled the King Saud University Stadium to watch the battle between the two league leaders.

Al-Hilal started the match in a storm with the French powerhouse striker Bafetimbi Gomis scoring twice within the first 17 minutes, making it 2-0 to the reigning champions. The Blues' fans in the stands went wild.

But after years of dominance by Al-Hilal, Al-Nassr is showing signs of a being a competitive side this season, with players including former Watford winger Noureddine Amrabat, Ahmed Mousa and Giuliano leading the club to its best season start since they won the championship title in 2015.

And Al-Nassr's yellow-shirted squad did not give up. The second half was a different story from the first, as Al-Nassr attacked constantly, and twenty minutes from the final whistle, their efforts paid off.

Amrabat lobbed from the right and Giuliano bizarrely scored with his shoulder, making it 2-1. Five minutes later, another counter-attack and Al-Nassr found the equaliser.

Again, it was Amrabat on the right flank, this time in a counter-attack. He lobbed accurately into the box, straight to the head of fellow Morocco national squad teammate Abderazak Hamdallah, who sent it in with style. The final result was a 2-2 draw, in a terrific game.

The Saudi Pro League this season is a fascinating scene, and it's far from over.

Istanbul Asian side in flames

The Turkish league this season is a serious roller-coaster. In a rare situation, all three mega-clubs from Istanbul are struggling to impress.

While Galatasaray and Besiktas are stuck in the 7th and 4th spots in the table with 25 points, Fenerbahçe is really in a state of emergency.

This weekend the Canaries lost to 3-0 to Akhisarspor and following Kayserispor's victory over Kasimpasa, they fell to 17th place in the Turkish Süper League, with only Rizespor ranked below them.

Fenerbahçe are having their worst ever season start; after 15 games, they have won only three, drawn five and lost seven.

With 14 points at this stage, the Kadikoy club seems like a serious contender for its first-ever relegation to the second division.

In the summer, Fenerbahçe aspired to re-conquer the Turkish League after years of silverware drought and signed the successful Dutch coach Phillip Cocu. In addition, they brought in Algerian striker Islam Slimani, Ghanian star Andre Ayew and Mexican dynamo Diego Reyes on lucrative loan deals, and yet, the team's results are a true catastrophe.

Cocu was sacked after a huge dispute among the board members, and since then the club has struggled to get a grip on a positive run of games.

Fenerbahçe has won 19 league titles, six Turkish Cups and multiple other local trophies and is counted as the second-most decorated club in Turkey after Galatasaray. They have never been relegated to the second division.

With Erwin Koeman as a caretaker manager, Fener will need to fight for its life in the Turkish Süper Lig. It seems that April-May will be an intense time in Istanbul.


Uri Levy runs the popular football blog BabaGol, which covers football and politics focusing on the Middle East. Follow him on Twitter, and read his blog here.