AGL contenders Al Wasl boost foreign ranks with exciting capture of Lima from Gremio

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Lima (l) in action for Gremio.

Arabian Gulf League title hopefuls Al Wasl have boosted their Brazilian contingent with the capture of Gremio attacking midfielder Lima on a season-long loan, with an option to purchase.

Lima, 22, was confirmed as the latest of his countrymen to join the Cheetahs ranks late on Monday night. Electric attackers Fabio De Lima, Caio Canedo and Ronaldo Mendes are already on the books of last term’s third-placed finishers.

“I am very happy to join Al Wasl and experience a new career in the Arabian Gulf League,” Lima said.

“I am very enthusiastic about representing the team and playing alongside my Brazilian compatriots.”

New eligibility rules for 2018/19 have dropped the requirement in the top flight for one of the non-Emirati quartet to be Asian qualified.

This rule still remains in place for the 2019 AFC Champions League, meaning only three of the Brazilians can be selected for the elite club competition.

Mendes seems the obvious candidate to drop out of the continental tournament, with the club confirming new coach Gustavo Quinteros has “closed the foreign players’ file”.

Lima has been attached to Gremio since 2013. He featured in both legs of February’s victory against Argentina’s Independiente in the Recopa Sudamerica.

In league competitions since making his debut for Imortal Tricolor in May 2017, he’s gone goalless in 19 appearances.

Previous loan moves have been undertaken at Spain’s Mallorca in the Segunda Division for 2015/16 and Serie B’s Ceara in his homeland during 2017.

Lima takes the spot occupied last term by Anthony Caceres. The Australian midfielder experienced an underwhelming loan spell from Manchester City.

Wasl have previously landed UAE anchor man Khamis Esmail from Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club and Al Ain’s colt striker Yousef Ahmed.

But a pre-season knee injury suffered by leading marksman De Lima threatens early hopes of success.

The 80-goal forward had a cartilage problem operated on last week and is a major doubt for August 30’s league opener against Dibba Al Fujairah.

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Omar Abdulrahman absence is glaring for Zoran Mamic as Al Ain kick-off in Arab Club Champions Cup

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Al Ain boss Zoran Mamic.

Al Ain’s 2018/19 commitments will kick-off on Tuesday amid the continuing absence of superstar playmaker Omar Abdulrahman when they battle Algeria’s ES Setif in the Arab Club Champions Cup’s first round.

Abdulrahman, the 2016 AFC Player of the Year, is yet to concur on fresh terms for his expired contract and is not present in Zagreb, Croatia for pre-season training. Reports in Saudi Arabian media state he has agreed to a new contract, with the caveat that a mega-money season loan to Riyadh’s Al Hilal – the club of his youth – is agreed.

This situation has placed a cloud over the Arabian Gulf League and President’s Cup winners, although coach Zoran Mamic was more perturbed about the scheduling of the opening leg (kick-off 20:00 on Abu Dhabi Sports HD) against the Ligue Professionnelle 1 holders at Zagreb, Croatia’s 5,000-capacity Igraliste Hitrec Kacian.

He said: “The exact timing for the game is strange, actually. It is difficult to play a formal game in the middle of the preparation phase that precedes the start of the season.

“In contrast, the opposing team (Setif) has played in the CAF Champions League during the past two weeks.”

The former Dinamo Zagreb tactician estimated he will have up to 20 players missing for the deciding tie on August 4. This is because of injury, plus the UAE senior’s training camp in Austria and the Under-23’s run at the 2018 Asian Games.

“During my 35 years spent in football at the top level, I have never heard about calling the international players from their clubs during the period of preparation for the season,” Mamic bemoaned. “It is not normal because that stage is most important to prepare the players for a long season.”

Opposing coach Rachid Taoussi boasts intimate knowledge of Al Ain after serving as their sporting director from 2008-10.

“I know the Al Ain team very well and it has a wonderful football academy,” the ex-Morocco boss said. “It always offers the national team the brightest stars.”

The first-round commitments of fellow Emirati entrants Al Jazira and Al Wasl – against Saudi opponents Al Nassr and Al Ittihad – only wind up at the end of September.

A total of 32 teams from 15 different nations, excluding Qatar, Yemen and Palestine, will take part in the opening stage.

No UAE outfit has won the competition, that culminates on April 28, 2019 at Casablanca, Morocco’s 67,000-capacity Stade Mohammed V.

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Hussein El Shahat commits to his 'family' in Al Ain after Al Ahly and Pyramids FC rumours

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Star attacking midfielder Hussein El Shahat has reiterated his faith to Al Ain after rumours about a return to Egypt surfaced.

El Shahat, 26, proved a revelation upon his mid-season arrival – initially on loan – from Misr El Makkasa. A return of seven goals and nine assists in 11 games was pivotal to the Arabian Gulf League being secured, plus he continued to impress when a club-first double with the President’s Cup was secured.

Despite inking permanent terms in March, the one-capped Egypt international was linked to Cairo giants Al Ahly and upstarts Pyramids FC. But judging by his quotes at the Boss’ pre-season training camp in Slovenia, he’s going nowhere.

“All my thinking, my concentration and my feelings as a professional football player are limited to achieving the goals of my club Al Ain, especially as I consider myself one of the players who have the responsibility to represent Egypt outside the borders of my beloved country,” El Shahat said.

“My relationship with Al Ain is not just as a football player who defends his club’s slogan, but I consider myself and all my team-mates as one family.”

Al Ain meet Algeria’s ES Setif on Tuesday for the first leg of the first round of the 2018/19 Arab Club Champions Cup.

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