Harambee Stars striker Micheal Olunga turned down offers from Egyptian and Saudi Arabian clubs in preference for a big-money move to giant Qatari club Al-Duhail SC, Nation Sport has learnt.
Fresh from winning the top scorer and Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards in the Japanese league at Kashiwa Reysol last season, Olunga finalised an estimated Sh1 billion move to the Red Knights on Monday.
He wasted little time in settling down at his new club as coach Sabri Lamouchi, a former French international, handed him his debut match in which Duhail lost 3-1 to table toppers Al Saad at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium on Tuesday night.
Besides being required to help the defending champions to claw back an eight-point gap held by leaders Al-Saad and win an eighth league title this season, Olunga is also expected to feature prominently at the rescheduled 2020 Fifa Club World Cup in Qatar.
The event set for Qatar from February 1-11 has attracted European champions Bayern Munich, African giants Al Ahly, Australia’s Auckland City, South Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai FC, and Mexico’s Club de Futbol Tigres de la Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leo (UANL).
“We must be realistic about our goals and acknowledge that we are taking part in this tournament because Qatar is the host country and that we won the league last year,” Lamouchi told fifa.com.
“Winning the (world club) title isn’t my aim. We’ll be taking things one day at a time. We’re lucky to be playing at this level. It is a big challenge and we must not be overly optimistic.”
Sources close to Olunga told Nation Sport that things could have turned out differently had the player accepted an offer from Egyptian club Pyramids. The offer has been on the table for the past six months.
The Cairo-based side, owned by Saudi billionaire Turki Al Sheikh reportedly offered Olunga a Sh12 million monthly salary for three years.
Emotional farewell letter
There was another lucrative deal from an unnamed top Saudi club, but Olunga, who’s played in Sweden, China, and Spain since winning the Most Valuable Player Award in the Kenyan Premier League in 2016, preferred to move to Qatar.
His decision was partly influenced by the large number of Kenyans living in Qatar which is set to host the 2022 Fifa World Cup next year.
Olunga has penned an emotional farewell letter to Reysol, in which he has left the door open for a possible reunion.
“I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all fans of Kashiwa Reysol for their support. I really enjoyed my time at a wonderful club called Reysol. I hope this club can develop even more in the future and I hope that it will be successful in the upcoming season. I hope I will be able to play in this beautiful club someday in the future. I wish you success. Thank you!” he wrote.
Olunga and Al-Duhail SC’s next game is away to Qatar SC next Tuesday.