Slovenia

Hilal Soudani at 36 still gets fans on their feet: Algerian is one of the most serious candidates for the player of the season

12. May 2024
Hillal Soudani (foto: pigac.si)
Hilal Soudani started the season with a two-month delay due to injury, but he is ending it as one of the main candidates for the player of the season in the Slovenian national championship.

"Age is just a number" is a cliché that we almost run into every day in football. Sometimes it's true, sometimes not, but it is true that players in their later years who show such commitment, motivation, and especially quality like Hilal Soudani, enjoy additional sympathy among fans.

When Maribor signed a two-year contract with the former favorite of Dinamo Zagreb fans, many didn't quite know what to think, as there was a big split between what Soudani once was and what kind of player he is (or can still be) today as he slowly prepares for his post-football life.

Soudani's season started in the worst possible way, as he suffered an ankle injury in the first official match of the season against Birkirkara, which made him miss the first eight games of the Slovenian national championship. He returned to the Maribor team at a time when Maribor was losing all chances to compete for the championship title, but in the latter part of the season, Soudani, in combination with the rejuvenated Josip Iličić, was the main reason Maribor became the best team in the league in the second half of the season.

If the signing of a two-year contract in the summer was a cause for concern, it is now a guarantee that Soudani will be part of the club's project next season, in which Maribor will definitely aggressively pursue the national championship title from the first game.

The Algerian has become one of the favorites at Ljudski vrt, which was evident in yesterday's eternal derby, where fans accompanied the Algerian's substitution from the field with a standing ovation—a honor reserved for only a few.

Soudani has scored 14 goals in 26 matches in the Slovenian national championship this season and currently only trails his teammate Arnel Jakupović and Celje's Aljoša Matko in the scorer's list. In April, he was named the best player of the month in the national championship, and in the last eight games, he has scored six goals, registering goals in five of those matches.

In the final stages of the season, it is quite normal for debates to arise about which player has shown more than anyone else. The battle for the player of the season will be interesting this year, as there are several serious and legitimate candidacies involved.

Representative Žan Karničnik has played at a very high level all season and especially stands out as a defensive player for his direct involvement in Celje's goals, Aljoša Matko has had periods of top form, and in Maribor, besides Soudani, the spring revival of Josip Iličić, who in the second half of the season is playing up to his name and reputation, cannot be overlooked.


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