Dida leaves Al Ahli for Bani Yas

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UAE goalkeeper Ahmed Dida leaves Al Ahli for Bani Yas in exchange deal with Mohammed Jaber

UAE goalkeeper Ahmed Dida has left Arabian Gulf League champions Al Ahli in pursuit of first-team football, with Bani Yas stalwart Mohammed Jaber going the other way in a part-exchange deal.

Dida, 27, made only six top-flight appearances last term after injury saw him usurped by Whites No1 Majed Nasser during the winter. Frustration at the situation saw the ex-Al Wasl and Al Shabab star decline to extend a contract which was to run out next summer.

The managerless Sky Blues moved quickly to take advantage of the situation, snapping him up on a four-year deal after agreeing to allow centre-back Jaber, 27, to head to Rashid Stadium.

This switch sees the one-club man end a long association with his boyhood team and split him up from brother Yousif.

“The goalkeeper Ahmed Dida signed a contract with Bani Yas first team for four years,” the Abu Dhabi-outfit tweeted.

“The contract states the transfer of Bani Yas player Mohammed Jaber to Al Ahli. We wish best of luck for both players.

“Bani Yas would like to thank Al Ahli for the success of this coopera- tion between the two clubs.”

The transfer ends a largely-frustrating, two-and-a-half-year stay at Ahli for Dida, who started just 14 AGL games during this time. He did, however, play a prominent role as the club made the final of the 2015 AFC Champions League after rival Nasser picked up a lengthy suspension.

Dida will add significant quality to a weak area of the Bani Yas squad. None of Mohamed Khalaf, Adel Fadaq or Mohsin Al Hashmi were able to fully stake their claim to the starting spot under either Luis Garcia or Dr Abdullah Misfer as the club limped home ninth.

Meanwhile, Dibba Al Fujairah’s foreign contingent for 2016/17 con- tinues to take shape after they completed a deal for miniscule Ivorian winger Hamed Kone.

Kone, 28, has signed up from Romanian strugglers Voluntari. His five goals in 30 appearances helped them to narrowly avoid relegation from Liga I.

They previously bought South Korean centre-back Heo Jae- won, 32, from Qatar’s Al Khor.

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A Day With: Gianluca Nani plotting Al Jazira’s path to the top

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Transfer mastermind: Gianluca Nani.

The crafting of a winning football team goes far beyond the 11 players on the pitch.

This is an axiom which Al Jazira technical director Gianluca Nani is plainly aware of. The Italian was hired in December after a lengthy career in Europe and was immediately tasked with improving all areas of the club.

In tandem with coach Henk ten Cate, the 53-year-old saw fallen giants rise from relegation candidates to President’s Cup winners by season’s end.

The challenge now for the man who oversaw a side featuring all-tme greats Pep Guardiola and Andrea Pirlo at Brescia, as well as teamed up with Italy legend Gianfranco Zola at West Ham United and Watford, is to turn this success into an Arabian Gulf League title push during 2016/17.

Tell me about your first months at Al Jazira?

It is a great experience. I heard a lot about Al Jazira before I came, but honestly I did not realise how big this club is. It is really a great club, with great people working here. When we arrived, the club was not in a good position in the league.

We have improved and done a good job, all together. The club and team can improve a lot. But this is a winning club. We are happy about the job, but then we need to build for the next season.

How important is this summer for Al Jazira?

For sure, it is important. But also, we have really good young players from the academy and great people working at the club.

When you work at a big club, everyone expects to win. It is not always easy to win. We have to think like a big club and build the team in a way to compete. The summer is important, but it is not just about the transfer market.

We need to work on the whole club. I am really proud that we were named as ‘Professional Club of the Year’ at the 2015/16 Arabian Gulf League Awards. But looking at the sports side, for sure we need to build a team who can compete with the best teams in the country.

What work will you be looking to do with the four foreign players in the summer transfer market?

We have great foreign players, but we were very unlucky with the bad injuries for Mirko Vucinic and Jefferson Farfan which kept them out for the whole season.

They are coming back and are important assets for the club. It is not an easy league, and some players who have great experience in Europe do not always do well here.

Luca Toni only scored three goals for Al Nasr and performed really bad, went back to Italy and was top scorer in Serie A.

It is not enough just to buy a name. They need time to adapt and then you have to wait.

I believe that if you already have a good player who knows the league and has already proved their ability to compete here, you should think a lot before changing them.

Anyway, we have time during the summer to do all the considerations with the coach and with the board, and to go for the way we consider most convenient for the club.

As someone who has arrived from Europe, have you been surprised by the quality of UAE striker Ali Mabkhout?

I will be honest, I didn’t know a lot about him before I received the call from Al Jazira. But I then studied the player and was hugely impressed by him.

We also have other great young players, like Khalfan Mubarak, Ahmed Rabea, Sultan Al Shamsi and Ahmed Al Attas – who can become a top striker and the best in the country.

We have so many other good young players, as well.

Mabkhout has the skill to play in a top European club, but he is Al Jazira. We do not think about moving him on at all and I do not see this team without Ali Mabkhout.

Is the summer the most important time of the year for a technical director?

For sure, it is the most important for the supporters – you sign players and sell players. But every day I am trying to build a nice environment around the club and team.

You talk with the players every day, try to organise a nice pre-season and help improve everything around the club.

You also help build the academy, while scouting opposition players. There is a big job to do.

The supporters in the summer are waiting for new signings, but this is just a small part of the job.

To look back on your career, you worked with legends like Pep Guardiola and Andrea Pirlo at Brescia in Serie A. What was that like?

I remember we had an unbelievable team. Our strikers were Toni and Roberto Baggio, and the midfield contained Guardiola, future Juventus star Stephen Appiah, Matuzalem – he was maybe the best midfielder I ever worked with – and then Pirlo.

Guardiola and Pirlo were world class, on and off the pitch. They helped us a lot.

Pep Guardiola during his time at Brescia.

Pep Guardiola during his time at Brescia.

What are your memories of working with the Pozzo family at Watford?

Again, I was really lucky. For sure, Mr Pozzo is the most-successful chairman in football.

This is not because of the trophies won, but the organisation and spirit he puts around the football club. I learned a lot from him.

I was really lucky, as it was like going to university with these people. I still feel I am learning a lot from being at Al Jazira and in the UAE.

To finish on Al Jazira, do you think Arabian Gulf League champions Al Ahli can be caught next season?

At this moment, Al Ahli, Al Ain and Al Nasr are a step ahead. You cannot just go ‘boom’ and improve straight away in football.

The local market is very difficult, as clubs are not happy to sell their best players easily. Not just having the four-best foreign players is enough, as squads are of 25.

Ahli and Al Ain have most of the UAE players. To compete with them is not easy at all. This is a project which must be built step by step. The club is even younger than me and it is an unbelievable job they have done in such a short time.

We have to create a great basis, then try to create and collect the best players.

Al Jazira have to compete at the top. It will not be easy at all, but we will try to be next to the top teams for next season and hopefully above them.

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Walid Amber tells Al Ahli 'play me or I leave'

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Amber warning: Walid Amber (right).

UAE Under-23 playmaker Walid Amber has issued a shock ultimatum to Arabian Gulf League champions Al Ahli, stating they either play him or he won’t sign a new contract.

Amber, 23, has been offered a three-year extension to a deal which runs out in summer 2017. This followed an impressive spell on loan last term at Emirates Club, scoring four goals in 22 top-flight appearances after turning out just once for his parent club in the preceding two seasons.

Amid interest from sides such as Al Wasl and Bani Yas, the seven-times-capped junior international wants assurances about a bigger role before he signs up.

He said: “During the two years, I did not find the opportunity to participate with Al Ahli and you’re away from the action. I do not want to repeat this experience.

“Certainly, being a member of the Red Knights squad is an honour for each player because it is a big club. But for me, my value as a player is found on the pitch.

“I provided a good season with Emirates Club and I had the opportunity to be a fundamental player there, so you feel psychological comfort.

“I will not renew my contract unless the existence of an opportunity is guaranteed.

“My appearances with the Falcons took me back to the Olympic team and gave me the honour of defending the UAE emblem – this is the dream of every player.”

The Red Knights squad are set to undertake initial medical tests from Saturday, ahead of travelling to Europe for a month-long training camp in Italy and Germany from July 20-August 20.

Amber declared his usage during this period will be telling as to whether he should stay with the Rashid Stadium-outfit or not.

He said: “In the training camp, everything remains clear for the players. I will find out if (coach) Cosmin Olaroiu will rely on me.

“If there is interest in me as a player, there would be no problem in renewing the contract.”

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