Reigning Ligue 2 Player of the Year Diego has been snapped up by Al Dhafra to complete an impressive new foreign quota they hope will avoid a repeat of last term’s struggles in the Arabian Gulf League.
Diego, 30, has shone during six years spent at Reims in France. The left winger’s final campaign of 2017/18 saw seven goals in 27 appearances which helped his former employers secure second spot and promotion to Ligue 1.
Such stellar performances convinced the Western Knights to make him their fourth non-Emirati recruit this summer – all of whom were free agents.
Coveted Al Hilal midfielder Nicolas Milesi, Wydad Casablanca and Morocco centre-back Amine Attouchi plus Rio Ave forward Helder Guedes have also been procured by a side who sunk to 10th in the previous season.
2017/18 Saudi Professional League Coach of the Year Vuk Rasovic is tipped to replace Gjoko Hadzievski in the dugout. The Macedonian was released after he narrowly completed his mid-season survival job, guiding the outfit to a finish just one point and one place outside the promotion/relegation play-off spots.
Serbia’s Rasovic lifted Al Faisaly from ninth to sixth during his only full season in charge. He also led them all the way to a 3-1 defeat against Jeddah giants Al Ittihad during last month’s King’s Cup final.
Diego is expected to be one of the jewels in the next tactician’s squad at Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Stadium.
A total of 25 goals in 156 games were fired in since the Americana-native was recruited from fellow French second-flight side Tours for £765,000 (Dh4.4m) in August 2012.
He had previously lifted the Hungarian Cup at Honved from 2006-10.
Portuguese attacker Guedes will hope to feed off his supply from out wide. The 31-year-old struck 10 times in 32 Primeira Liga run-outs last term for a side who qualified for the Europa League’s second qualifying round in fifth.
Uruguayan battler Milesi, 25, was chased by several Middle Eastern sides. This was after his stellar achievements during two seasons at Hilal where he won a pair of Saudi Professional Leagues, one King Cup of Champions, was defeated in the 2017 AFC Champions League final and scored six times in 59 appearances.
Centre-back Attouchi, 26, was an outsider to make Morocco’s World Cup 2018 squad after he made the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations list.
Dhafra require a strong return from these additions.
In the previous top flight since their January arrivals, Uzbekistan forward Igor Sergeev struck once in 10 matches and Brazilian counterpart Fernando Viana contributed no goals in 11 run-outs.
However, the French striker’s entourage later denied those claims and said no decision had been taken yet on the player’s future.
“Today, we don’t know where Antoine will play next season,” a source believed to be close to Griezmann told L’Equipe.
“Antoine hasn’t made a decision and contrary to the reports in the past few months, he hasn’t signed a pre-contract agreement with Barca either.”
Griezmann is expected to make a call on his future before the 2018 World Cup begins later this month.
“Talks with Liverpool will only happen when there is an agreement with Lyon and (club owner) Jean-Michel Aulas gives the green light,” agent Jean-Pierre Bernes told French outlet Le Progres .
“Liverpool’s interest exists but for now nothing is done. The transfer window is long and other clubs could show interest.”
Liverpool are overhauling their midfield this summer, with Naby Keita set to join from RB Leipzig after a deal was agreed last summer, and Fabinho having signed from Monaco last month. Fekir could be the missing piece that allows the Reds to mount a more sustained challenge for the Premier League title.