Youssef El Jebli arrived unheralded in the Saudi Professional League, but with words of encouragement from a lauded compatriot in his ears.
This football education administered on the streets of Utrecht by ex-PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona and Netherlands attacking midfielder Ibrahim Afellay has translated into exceptional performances more than 5,000 kilometres away. It is some transformation for a player who combined amateur football in the lower leagues with work at Albert Heijn, his country’s largest supermarket chain, for six years until the Eredivisie’s De Graafschap paid €50,000 for him in July 2015.
El Jebli took to the field on Tuesday evening’s restart, after five months of inaction because of coronavirus, as one of the best performers in a star-studded competition.
Al Faisaly’s astute call last August to snap the schemer up on a two-year contract has been rewarded with a leading nine assists. This is one more than fellow Dutch/Moroccan Nordin Amrabat of champions Al Nassr and three more than Al Hilal’s lauded ex-Italy maverick Sebastian Giovinco, among others.
He didn’t add to this haul in the 2-1 victory over sixth-placed Al Taawoun, but this result increases hope unfashionable Faisaly can gatecrash the top three from fifth and gain historic 2021 AFC Champions League qualification. Such success may also see a famous name pop up on his phone again.
“He [Afellay] was very inspirational,” the effusive 27-year-old tells Sport360 from his hotel base at provincial Al Majma’ah. “I know him, personally.
“I’m in contact with him. My friends know him, my whole family does.
“When I saw him at PSV, I thought ‘what a good player, I want to be like him’.
“Sometimes we played in the streets and he came with his little brother, giving me some good advice: ‘Listen to this, don’t do that, it’s not only about football,