Al Ahli boss Cosmin Olaroiu declined to discuss the club’s landmark pursuit of Fenerbahce forward Moussa Sow on Sunday.
The Turkish giants released a statement on Friday which said they had accepted an Arabian Gulf League-record €17million (Dh70m) package to bring the Senegal international to the Rashid Stadium.
The Red Knights have refused to comment on the matter since and their Romanian boss kept up this stance in his pre-match conference ahead of tonight’s Arabian Gulf Cup opener against Emirates Club (19:20 start).
“I am not talking about the transfer section,” the Romanian said, while shrugging his shoulders. “I work only with the team and the players I have.”
Sow is expected to finalise his move on Monday after spending the weekend in Dubai undergoing a medical. This will see him complete a fearsome four-player foreign quartet which features Brazil playmaker Everton Ribeiro, South Korean defensive midfielder Kwon Kyung-won and Brazilian striker and fellow summer arrival Lima.
Ahli head into their imminent home match boosted by their midweek 1-0 AFC Champions League, first-leg triumph at Naft Tehran but with a severely-depleted squad because of international commitments.
With the club’s brightest local talents included in the list of 10 players unavailable, Olaroiu has been left to select from a threadbare squad.
He said: “This is not the best competition for us because we are missing 10 players through national team duty. Other teams don’t have this many players in the national teams, so will not be as affected.
“Despite this, we will treat this competition as seriously as we can. It’s an opportunity for other players and youngsters to show they can become main team players – we will try our best to prepare for this game.
“Emirates were good last season and only lost their Arabian Gulf League opener this season (narrowly) 2-1 away to Al Nasr, so we have to treat this game seriously.”
One player who could enjoy an emotional return to duty in the Group A-clash is Brazilian forward Ciel. The 33-year-old has not played competitively since he suffered an awful double ankle fracture in the club’s opening 2014/15 Arabian Gulf League fixture against Sharjah last September.
The ex-Al Shabab player is unwanted this term, Sow’s impending purchase pushing him further out of the reckoning. But as Oussama Assaidi is with Morocco, a rare opportunity has opened up for him.
“He needs a little bit more confidence with his leg,” Olaroiu said.
Al Ain fought back from 2-0 down to rescue a point from a 2-2 draw with Al Jazira in their Arabian Gulf Cup opener.
The Pride of Abu Dhabi looked to be on course for all three points in Group B last night as they led thanks to first half goals from former Juventus frontman Mirko Vucinic and Brazilian summer signing Thiago Neves.
The Boss, however, struck twice in nine second half minutes, the first from summer signing Ryan Babel’s penalty following Juma Abdulla’s pull in the box, the other from Emirati striker Saeed Al Kathiri’s bullet header.
There were goals and cards galore at Al Nahyan Stadium where Sebastian Tagliabue’s hat-trick rescued a point for Al Wahda in a 3-3 draw with Fujairah. As well as three goals apiece, each team also finished with 10 men.
Hassan Maatouk fired the visitors in front after just seven minutes, Tagliabue responding just before half-time from the penalty spot.
Patrick Eze’s quickfire double then put Fujairah in the driving seat before Ivan Hasek’s men were reduced to 10 men with Abdulaziz Ismaeil receiving a straight red.
Wahda instantly capitalised, Tagliabue again netting from the spot in the 70th minute. Five minutes later it was all square, Tagliabue completing his hat-trick as he volleyed in substitute Khalid Bawazir’s cross.
The drama was still not complete, however, as Salem Sultan also departed after collecting two bookings. Al Wasl eased to a 2-0 win at home against newly-promoted Al Shaab thanks to goals from new signing Edgar Bruno and Yaser Salem.
Power has been reasserted by both Al Ahli and the Arabian Gulf League as they look set to splash out a record €17 million (Dh69.8m) fee on forward Moussa Sow.
The impending deal with Fenerbahce for the 29-year-old Senegal international shows UAE football at its ambitious best. A 2015-16 title race for the ages now seems certain.
Al Jazira’s impressive work in the summer market being more than matched by a Red Knights outfit determined to crash through previous national benchmarks set for Asamoah Gyan and Ricardo Oliveira as they race to reclaim domestic supremacy.
In one fell swoop it also casts aside the doom and gloom caused by the former’s defection to the Chinese Super League last month from champions Al Ain.
The narrative as the Ghana striker departed for Shanghai SIPG last month was negative. With him went the best foreign footballer to grace the UAE, moving for a wedge of money to the east of Asia. The deal threatened to overshadow another impressive summer of transfer dealing across the AGL, China now seemingly the booming league on the continent.
This perspective can be questioned when Sow – the 2010-11 Ligue 1 top scorer at Lille and latterly leading performer in Turkey – seals his breathtaking transfer before Monday.
The depth of talent in the domestic game is the envy of any Asian competition. Key performers can be found throughout. From Ahli’s Copa America playmaker Everton Ribeiro, three-time Serie A champion Mirko Vucinic at Al Jazira and Al Wahda beating several clubs to maestro Jorge Valdivia after his influential role during Chile’s Copa America success.
Look even deeper and you see Bani Yas possessing Australia defensive midfielder Mark Milligan, Al Wasl boasting the presence of Portugal metronome Hugo Viana for another season, Sharjah snapping up Brazilian playmaker Maicosuel and even newly-promoted Al Shaab recruiting Egypt international midfielder Amr Al Sulaya.
This is all even before you start counting the incredible domestic stars which carried the UAE to third place in January’s Asian Cup, led by tournament top scorer Ali Makbhout and imitable superstar playmaker Omar Abdulrahman.
With 17 million Euro Moussa Sow is the most expensive transfer in Turkey ever. We wish him the best of luck at Al-Ahli!
— Fener Int (@fenerint) August 27, 2015
All these ingredients will combine for an absorbing contest until next May for the AGL, Arabian Gulf Cup and President’s Cup. It is the battle at the top which this move makes the most resonance. Ahli have refused to be cowed by last term’s dismal title defence and seventh-placed finish.
An attack which features Ismail Al Hammadi, winter recruit Ribeiro, Sow and fellow summer buy Lima is incredible. That Jazira can rightly feel they match it with Jefferson Farfan, Thiago Neves, Mabkhout and Vucinic is all the more mouthwatering.
Holders Al Ain add further to this heady mixture, Gyan’s replacement Emmanuel Emenike showing his class with a brace on debut during the 4-2 Arabian Gulf Super Cup-victory against everimproving Al Nasr.
All this means big money will equal big thrills in Asia’s premier club division during the campaign to come.