Al Wasl have swooped in to snare UAE centre midfielder Khamis Esmail on a three-year contract from Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club in what will be one of the Arabian Gulf League’s standout transfers of the summer market.
Esmail, 28, had grown into a standout figure for club and country during the past few seasons. His exploits at Al Jazira saw him complete a groundbreaking switch to – the now defunct – Al Ahli for approximately Dh60 million in January 2016.
But a combination of injury, indifferent form, instability at newly merged employers and the demands of the freshly introduced salary cap saw him made available for transfer at the end of 2017/18.
The 54-times-capped Whites star had been expected to move to Al Nasr. But he will now don the yellow of their Bur Dubai rivals after Thursday’s shock developments.
“I would like to express my happiness about joining the ranks of Al Wasl because of their historical achievements and large fan base,” said Esmail about joining last term’s third-placed finishers.
“I have huge enthusiasm to represent Al Wasl and to provide my best to achieve the aspirations of the team and fans.
“I wish to perform well and contribute with my colleagues to achieving trophies.”
Esmail is the second UAE international to recently depart Rashid Stadium. Centre-back Mohammed Marzooq agreed to join Nasr last month on a four-year deal.
Wasl previously made underutilised Al Ain striker Yousef Ahmed the first signing of new coach Gustavo Quinteros’ reign.
Mamic, 46, delivered both the Arabian Gulf League and President’s Cup last term – an achievement that had previously eluded the UAE’s most-decorated club.
This success came amid a high-profile and lengthy corruption investigation in his homeland that saw him handed a four-years-and-11-months prison sentence last week for his role in a multi-million-euro abuse of power while at Dinamo Zagreb. Mamic had two spells there as a player, plus won three-successive Croatian First League crowns as head coach from 2013-16.
Mamic, along with his brother Zdravko – who was executive director – plus a group of other officials, has vehemently protested his innocence and issued plans to lodge an appeal.
“I am very happy to continue with the team and would like to reiterate my thanks and appreciation to Al Ain for that confidence,” said the Garden City tactician, who was poached from Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr in February 2017. “I promise everyone to show my best in the next season, which will feature great challenges.
“Our goal in the new season is to be better than last season. We are working to develop our capabilities and strengthen our capabilities in a way that enables us to emerge as the victor in all challenges.
“Our main goal is to offer an exceptional season, that concludes with great achievements that will delight the supporters.
Further movement is also expected about the expired deals of superstar playmaker Omar Abdulrahman, fellow AFC Player of the Year winner Ahmed Khalil and UAE veteran centre-back Ismail Ahmed.
The trio’s contracts expired this month, making them highly desirable free agents. This has also opened up fresh talk about Amoory making the long-debated move to Europe.
But Al Ain insisted discussions are ongoing with the players and their decision to allow the lapses was based on working out how to best fit them into the UAE Football Association’s stringent new salary cap.
A club statement read: “Al Ain stresses its keenness to continue with the team’s stars after the official announcement of new offers to extend the contract with the players.
“Their contracts were ended because of the desire of the club to maintain its players in line with the salary cap and in a manner that does not contradict with the rules and the decision issued by the authority responsible [UAE Football Association].
“Al Ain will also like to point out that the report of coach Zoran Mamic included the identification of some Emirati players and the club has started negotiations with them to strengthen the team.”
Al Nasr have lodged a lucrative €7 million (Dh30.1m) offer they hope will finally prise forward Keno from Palmeiras’ grip, according to reports.
Keno, 28, is a long-term target for the Blue Wave and overtures were rejected for him during the winter. This firm stance from the Sao Paulo giants has not weakened their resolve to obtain a versatile attacker who has struck eight times in 30 appearances during 2018.
Esporte Interativo originally reported the fresh bid on Tuesday. With no permanent deal currently sealed for Marcelo Cirino after his productive loan stint from Atletico Paranaense, his fellow Brazilian could be their next left winger.
The fourth-placed finishers from the Arabian Gulf League have already recruited countryman and striker Samuel Rosa from Hatta. This is in addition to the impressive domestic purchases of UAE internationals Mohammed Marzouq from Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club and Mohamed Al Akbari from Al Wahda.
Jordan centre-back Joan Oumari is the only foreign star likely to be retained from 2017/18’s rollercoaster campaign. Morocco playmaker Abdelaziz Barrada was not offered a contract extension after an underwhelming two-year stint in Dubai.
Meanwhile, promoted Fujairah have completed their non-Emirati ranks with the recruitment of well-travelled Brazilian forward Jorge Silva on loan from Johor Darul Ta’zim.
Silva, 31, only joined the Malaysian champions in May after a contract dispute stained his final months at Saudi Arabia’s Al Batin. In the previous winter transfer market, this caused him to be linked with a free transfer to Al Dhafra.
He would strike once in four league matches during his short stint in East Asia, before a switch to the UAE’s east coast was completed on Tuesday.
He joins the fellow new boys of prolific Hatta playmaker Fernando Gabriel and Al Shabab Riyadh forward Mohamed Benyettou. French centre midfielder Omar Kossoko was retained by the side who required the promotion/relegation play-offs to earn a return to the top flight for the first time since 2015/16.