Sharjah have made a stunning swoop for lethal Al Ittihad marksman Gelmin Rivas as they boldly attempt to end their recent woes in the Arabian Gulf League.
A three-year deal for the second top scorer in the 2015/16 Saudi Professional League was proudly announced by chairman Ahmed bin Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Thani last night. It marks a remarkable retort to the sale of striker Wanderley to Al Nasr.
“Congratulations to the masses for Rivas, and wish him well with the rest of the players,” Al Thani tweeted about the powerful centre forward, who scored 19 goals in 25 top-flight games after a move from Venezuela’s Deportivo Tachira.
The Kings have narrowly avoided relegation during the last two campaigns and this show of ambition exemplifies a keen desire to end this misery. The dramatic change looks unlikely to be the last one at Sharjah Stadium, with Arabic media reporting further raids on Saudi Arabia.
They centre on giants Al Hilal, with the Brazilian pair of centre-back Digao, 28, and striker Ailton, 31, being linked by Al Ittihad newspaper in a dynamic shake-up of the first team. An approach for the same club’s former coach Giorgos Donis is also rumoured.
Last term’s rookie boss Abdulaziz Al Anbari was not present last night as pre-season training got underway.
Ex-Greece midfielder Donis, 46, would provide a sizeable step up in experience after spells at teams such as AEK Athens and PAOK.
President’s Cup holders Al Jazira expect to complete the signing of Al Ain right-back Mohammed Fawzi once his commitments in the UAE’s summer training camp are over.
The Pride of Abu Dhabi have begun the process of significantly bolstering a squad which struggled to seventh in the 2015/16 Arabian Gulf League. The centre point of their early moves is a double deal with the Boss.
Veteran midfielder Ibrahim Diaky, 34, has already agreed a return to Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium and has been involved in pre-season training, despite the lack of official confirmation. A transfer for his team-mate, Fawzi, has been complicated by the Whites’ month-long trip to Spain, which winds up on August 10.
It is hoped everything will be signed off once that spell ends, with Fawzi, 26, putting pen to paper in Abu Dhabi before probably meeting up with his new colleagues once they return from a preparatory spell in the Netherlands.
Jazira have already secured the transfers of box-to-box Fujairah midfielder Humaid Ahmed, 28, and 30-year-old Al Wasl midfielder Salem Abdulla. They have also brought two-time former coach Jan Versleijen back into the fold as an assistant to fellow Dutchman Henk ten Cate.
They will play a number of friendlies in Europe, which will represent a chance for the foreign stars to prove their worth. Peru forward Jefferson Farfan and Montenegro marksman Mirko Vucinic will be particularly under the spotlight after lengthy injuries last term.
Spanish playmaker Angel Lafita is unlikely to comprise part of next term’s four-man foreign quota no matter how he performs, with Brazil attacking midfielder Thiago Neves also at risk in spite of his strong end to the season. South Korea anchorman Park Jong-woo is currently undergoing national service and will be available shortly.
A transfer for Fawzi will go a long way to improving a defence which was the third worst in the top flight last term, with 50 goals conceded from 26 games. It would also provide the ex-Al Ahli and Bani Yas performer with regular first-team football after he started just three more times in the AGL after February 18’s 2-1 home loss against Al Shabab.
Al Ain boss Zlatko Dalic has backed the club’s young stars to make the most of the “large” opportunity to impress this summer in the absence of his UAE stars.
The Boss have begun pre-season with a depleted squad as eight key players – including midfielder Amer Abdulrahman bought from Bani Yas – are in Spain for a monthlong national training camp.
With negotiations about an early release proving futile, they will not be free until after August 10. This has given an opportunity for U-21 League regulars such as striker Yousef Ahmed and midfielder Rayan Al Jaberi to catch the coach’s eye.
“Al Ain said on several occasions that the interest of the national team is above all else,” said Dalic. “But it is not easy for any coach in the world when their preparatory programme starts with a significant challenge posed by the absence of eight important players.”
“Our team will be better than last season, but we will face a problem in the set-up programme. I think that the team’s under-21 players are well aware that the opportunity that they have been given in the absence of the internationals is large.”
“My confidence in the team’s players who are 21 years old or under is boundless. I did not hesitate to give them the opportunity and will work to validate their presence, because they have good potential.”
Al Ain’s juniors finished third in the 2015/16 U-21 League, finishing well behind the runaway top two of Al Wahda and champions Sharjah. In a tight race for top scorer, 22-year-old Ahmed – who has scored twice in six senior appearances since his 2012 debut – finished fifth with 11 goals and Al Jaberi contributed nine efforts.
Al Ain are currently being put through their paces at Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium before heading off to Austria next week for a camp which wraps up after August 14’s friendly against Napoli.