Hatta sign Romanians Ropotan and Radut

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New signings: Radut (l) and Ropotan.

Newly-promoted Hatta have turned to a Romanian double act as they bid to avoid instant relegation from the Arabian Gulf League.

Winger Mihai Radut, 26, and defensive midfielder Adrian Ropotan, 30, are the latest players to sign up as the Tornado prepare for a first top-flight campaign during the professional era.

The internationally-capped pair have arrived on free transfers after their agreements with Pandurii Targu Jiu expired once they helped them finish third in the 2015/16 Liga I. The duo were unveiled late on Monday after inking one-year deals, continuing the rapid recruitment drive of the First Division League champions.

Their entrances mean three spots in their four-player foreign quota have been filled by new faces, with exciting Jordan winger Yaseen Al Bakhit also being recruited without a fee at the end of last month.

The non-Emiratis compliment some impressive domestic buys. Forward Mohammed Malallah is the headline acquisition after he was the fourth-highest-scoring Emirati during the 2015/16 AGL with six goals in 23 matches for lowly Emirates Club.

Experience has been added into the squad by versatile attacker Essa Obaid. The 32-year-old’s 11-year association with Al Shabab was brought to an end last week after he made only eight appearances in all competitions.

Defender Mahmoud Hassan has also joined from Emirates, with full-back Bader Abdulrahman being bought from Sharjah and forward Maher Jassim purchased from relegated Al Shaab.

Hatta were last in the UAE’s leading division during 2007/08, the final season of amateur play. Their opening match this time sees Arabian Gulf Cup winners Al Wahda take the 266-kilometre trip north east to Hatta Stadium, with round one set to be held between September 16-18.

For the latest additions, Ropotan boasts greater experience. The former Dinamo Moscow player narrowly missed out on a place in Romania’s Euro 2016 squad, being taken off at half-time during May 28’s 1-1 friendly draw against Democratic Republic of Congo.

He had also come off the substitutes’ bench during March’s goalless draw with Spain.

Ropotan had impressed in 11 top-flight appearances since a January switch from Petrolul Ploiesti, with Pandurii hopeful of gaining a contract renewal.

They had a similar wish for Sporting Lisbon academy product Radut. The wide man – who is comfortable on either flank or utilised down the middle – first came to the Miners on a loan deal from 2012/13, which was made permanent upon expiry.

He has gone on to score eight goals during 64 games in all competitions prior to his UAE move.

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Kashima Antlers starlet Caio tops Al Ain shopping list

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Star in the making: Caio.

Al Ain have turned to Japan once again and lodged a bid for Kashima Antlers left winger Caio.

Caio, 22, has risen to the top of the Boss’ list of wide men after an impressive start to his professional career in the J1 League.

An offer worth approximately €3 million (Dh12.4m) for the 2014 Rookie of the Year has been rejected because superior amounts from two unnamed Qatar Stars League outfits have been provided, although tentative interest from Al Wasl is not expected to complicate the situation.

The UAE’s most-decorated club remain keen to complete the deal and secure the signature of a player they believe can compliment right-footed speedster Danilo Asprilla.

Al Ain have also distanced themselves from reports in Turkey about an approach to Hungary captain and Bursaspor star Balazs Dzsudzsak.

Recent success in the Japanese market has strengthened this desire, with striker and fellow Brazilian Douglas, 28, netting an impressive 18 times in 22 games since a €4m (Dh16m) move from Tokushima Vortis during January.

To facilitate Caio’s potential spot in the four-player foreign quota, centre midfielder Fellipe Bastos has been made available for transfer. But the 26-year-old could prove difficult to shift.

He has two years remaining on a contract signed upon arrival from Vasco Da Gama last summer and potential problems relocating his family to Saudi Arabia has ensured a lukewarm reaction to an approach from Al Ahli Jeddah.

Even if the sale of the ex-Benfica and PSV Eindhoven proves abortive, the Arabian Gulf League runners-up intend to press on with the recruitment of a left-sided, non-Emirati attacker which they are convinced could help unseat champions Al Ahli.

Another strong run of performances during just his third top-flight campaign has drawn wide interest in Caio’s services.

The Aracatubanative’s lethal ability to cut in from the left onto his favoured right foot has seen him register five goals and three assists as Kashima sit second in the table after 15 matches. This follows eight goals and five assists in 30 J1 League games during his breakthrough 2014, with 11 goals and six assists in 32 matches coming the season after.

In total, he boasts the excellent average of a goal or assist every 136.8 minutes. Caio – who has also spoken about the possibility of naturalisation after moving to Japan in 2011 aged 17 – has recently been embroiled in a racism scandal.

Urawa Red Diamonds on Monday said an offensive tweet directed at him by apparent supporter @urawatsubasa last week was “absolutely intolerable”.

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Al Ahli to begin title defence against Emirates Club

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Team to beat: Al Ahli.

Al Ahli’s title defence will get under way between September 16-18 after the Pro League Committee released the fixtures for the first half of the new season.

The Red Knights stormed to a seventh Arabian Gulf League crown last term, finishing nine points ahead of holders Al Ain.

Relegation strugglers Emirates Club will be up first at Rashid Stadium, with the final date for the game to be announced in the future.

The decision about the schedule followed a coordination meeting between organising body the PLC and the UAE Football Association on Sunday. This saw the original start date moved forward a day from September 15.

Domestic action will restart on September 2-3 with the first round of group games in the Arabian Gulf Cup.

Champions Al Wahda will face Al Jazira in Group A, with beaten finalist Al Shabab kicking off against Dibba Al Fujairah in Group B.

Shadow squads will be expected for the opening cup games, with the fixtures falling between the UAE’s opening third round qualifiers for World Cup 2018.

The sixth and final round of group matches will be played between December 12-13. In the AGL, round 13 will signal the halfway stage and it will come on December 22-23.

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