AGONA Profile: Hillal Soudani, Olympiacos’ goal-hungry winger
This week, Olympiacos bolstered their powerful attacking line, acquiring 31-year-old Algerian winger Hillal Soudani from Nottingham Forest. The AGONA Profile analyses his career in more detail.
EARLY START WITH LOCAL CLUB ASO CHLEF
Soudani immediately joined hometown club, ASO Chlef, as a boy. Progressing through the ranks with the Algerian side, Soudani began to break into the senior team in 2006 when aged 19.
Two years later, Soudani was voted as the Young Player of the Year by DZFoot, as he managed to bag an impressive 11 league goals in the 2007/2008 campaign. Buoyed by that success, he continued his rapid progression, subsequently gaining a grand total of 34 goals in the next three Algerian seasons with Chlef to attract the attention of Vitória de Guimarães in Portugal.
FIRST EUROPEAN STEPS, TRANSFER TO DINAMO ZAGREB
Guimaraes opted to pay Chlef 800,000 euros in order to secure Soudani’s signature in August 2011. Adapting to the European game was never going to be easy, and for the majority of his first season in Portugal, Soudani had to be content with the role of an impact substitute. However, towards the end of the campaign, he earned the trust of the coaching staff and managed to score four Liga NOS goals in the concluding six games.
Soudani improved further in the 2012/2013 season. Given more minutes on the pitch, the versatile Algerian forward found his groove, striking nine goals in the Liga NOS to fully assert himself onto the Portuguese stage. After that particular campaign reached its completion, Dinamo Zagreb came calling from Croatia, spending 900,000 to sign Soudani on a four-year contract.
GOALS GALORE IN CROATIA
His ensuing five-year spell in Zagreb turned out to be something special.
Soudani suddenly transformed into a goal machine. In his debut season in Croatia, Soudani netted 16 goals in the championship, inspiring Dinamo Zagreb to the national crown. It’s worth noting that he also scored three times in the UEFA Champions League qualifiers.
The 2015/2016 season, in which Soudani tallied eight goals in the Croatian league, was the only year when he scored less than 10 markers in the championship.
In his final two years with Dinamo, Soudani scored 34 goals in the league from the right wing, and he was signed by Nottingham Forest for three million in July 2018. Soudani won the Croatian league four times and the Croatian Cup on three occasions during his memorable stint at Dinamo Zagreb.
ENGLISH STRUGGLES, CHANCE IN PIRAEUS
Taking into account his superb record with Dinamo Zagreb, Soudani was expected to repeat the feat in the English Championship at Nottingham Forest, but injury problems prevented him from doing so.
Soudani actually made a fantastic start to life in the English second tier. In the opening four matches of the season, Soudani scored twice, but he promptly received a knock to his knee. Soudani then picked up a new serious injury to his leg in October which kept him on the sidelines for the remainder of the campaign.
The Algerian’s brilliant scoring statistics with Dinamo Zagreb played a key factor in Olympiacos’ decision to sign him. Generally, Soudani plays on the right flank as a winger, but he is capable of either playing on the opposite side or as the main striker. Such flexibility gives Pedro Martins plenty of extra options, even if he already has a squad full of depth at his disposal.