Fearsome Sharjah new boy Gelmin Rivas has sent out a warning to the Arabian Gulf League that he is determined to better his incredible scoring exploits from Saudi Arabia.
Rivas, 27, was snapped up by the King on Sunday from superpower Al Ittihad on a three-year deal in a remarkable show of ambition from a club which has narrowly avoided relegation during the past two seasons.
He arrives with a burgeoning reputation after plundering 19 goals in 25 matches to finish second top scorer during a splendid debut campaign in the Saudi Professional League.
Speaking at his packed unveiling last night, the Venezuela centre forward highlighted an improving prowess in front of goal which is sure to unsettle the UAE’s defenders.
“Since I started playing professionally, you can see my record,” said Rivas in Sharjah Stadium’s resplendent trophy room. “Always, my number of goals is increasing with every season
“Before I joined Ittihad, I promised myself I would score 20 goals (he scored 23 times during 34 matches in all competitions).
“This season, the promise I make to myself is to score even more goals than last season. But I am not just here to score goals. I am also here to win the league or the cup, whatever is possible. This is more important than how many goals I score myself.”
The recruit from the Kingdom represents a perfect replacement for Wanderley, who will imminently complete a switch to Al Nasr.
Tantalisingly, Sharjah are not expected to stop just with Rivas. Deals are close to bring in centre-back Digao, 28, and striker Ailton, 31, from Al Hilal, while out-of-work Giorgis Donis – who led the same Saudi club to the semi-finals of the 2015 AFC Champions League – is one of two shortlisted candidates to replace rookie coach Abdulaziz Al Anbari.
“When I thought there might be a possibility to come here, I studied the club and saw whether it would meet my needs,” said Rivas. “It is not an easy thing to come and play for Sharjah, they have many talented Emirati players here and a good squad.
“I also believe with the new coach and other new foreign players they are bringing in, they will have everything to fight for the league.”
Ittihad picked Rivas out from obscurity during the summer of 2015, snapping him up from then Liga Venezolana champions Deportivo Tachira.
They have now reluctantly parted ways with the striker after being racked with internal problems. He joins fallen giants, who are ambitiously trying to end a 13-year trophy drought.
“I know this is a club with a big history,” commented Rivas. “But I know I can achieve more and make history myself with this club.
“The welcome for me has been very warm and I am here to score as many goals as possible.
“I know the Al Ittihad fans well and they were very important to me. But I came here for this new project and to score as many goals as possible.”
He added: “Meeting the Sharjah players was great. They made me feel very happy and I am so happy they received me with open arms.
“All of them were very professional from a personal point of view.
“I am 100-per-cent committed to this club. I am training as hard as possible from now on to give everything to this club.”
Both a physical and cerebral presence has been added to Emirates Club’s defence with the acquisition of Zac Anderson.
The imposing Australian centre-back is the latest Arabian Gulf League recruit from Down Under.
Here, we look at some of the best Australian players to ply their trade in the AGL.
Position: Centre midfielder
UAE club(s): Al Nasr
Time in AGL: August 2011-August 2012
AGL appearances: 17
AGL goals: 10
The 84-times-xecapped Australia stalwart experienced a rollercoaster stay at Al Nasr.
Brought in on a free transfer from Italian giants Lazio, he arrived on a wave of excitement but left amid a hail of controversy. Bresciano was suspended for four months and fined €1,377,000 (Dh5.6m) after he was found to have unilaterally breached his contract at Al Maktoum Stadium to force the switch to Qatar’s Al Gharafa. Prior to this, he had excelled in Dubai. An impressive 10 goals were plundered in 17games. How Nasr wish he’d stayed longer.
UAE club(s): Al Ain
Time in AGL: September 2012-June 2014
AGL appearances: 39
AGL goals: 14
There can be little doubt the Australia forward was a successful buy for the Boss. With an eye for goal on the pitch and immense popularity in the dressing room, Brosque fully justified the decision to snap him up from Japan’s Shimizu S-Pulse. Silverware was picked up during two contrasting seasons. The Sydney-native helped his side race to the 2012/13 Arabian Gulf League title, before helping a miserable defence end on a positive note in the next campaign with victory in the President’s Cup. Can now be found captaining Sydney FC.
UAE club(s): Al Wahda
Time in AGL: January 2013-April 2014
AGL appearances: 15
AGL goals: 3
Djulbic provided a giant figure at the back for Al Wahda during a mixed period in their recent history. The 1.95m centre-back formed a decent pairing with then UAE regular Hamdan Al Kamali upon arrival from China’s Guizhou Renhe in January 2013. He joined with the club in seventh, a position they remained in until the end of the 2012/13 season. Djulbic was the only foreign player retained for 2013/14, yet a series of injuries saw him restricted to just three appearances before heading back home to Perth Glory in April 2014.
UAE club(s): Al Nasr, Emirates Club
Time in AGL: June 2013-June 2016
AGL appearances: 70
AGL goals: 13
An indelible mark was left by the dogged midfielder in the UAE. The 63-times-capped star’s leadership and playmaking skills shone through at Al Nasr, helping end a 12-year wait for silverware with victory in the 2013/14 GCC Club Cup. Even better was to follow, a double of the President’s Cup and Arabian Gulf Cup coming in his second and final season in Dubai. Not bad for a free transfer acquisition from Aston Villa. Last term was more frustrating, a succession of injuries negating his impact on the pitch as Emirates Club narrowly avoided the drop.
Position: Defensive midfielder
UAE club(s): Bani Yas
Time in AGL: June 2015-to date
AGL appearances: 21
AGL goals: 3
The quality and leadership offered by Milligan has proven that the Sky Blues were right to see their long pursuit of him finally reach a successful conclusion.
It was a case of ‘third-time lucky’ last summer as a deal was agreed with all parties after aborted attempts in the two previous years. Bani Yas flattered to deceive for much of a frustrating campaign, yet Milligan did more than enough to stick around for the final year of his contract. Still a regular for the Socceroos, he will be key in 2016/17.
Awana, 27, had been expected to follow former club-mate Amer Abdulrahman to the Boss this summer. But he instead opted for a switch to the UAE’s other remaining representatives in the 2016 AFC Champions League.
With a quarter-final against Qatar’s El Jaish approaching, plus the smart additions of Sharjah striker Wanderley – whose deal is close to official completion – and Marseille schemer Abdelaziz Barrada, the recent Whites debutant couldn’t wait to get started.
“I thank the board of directors at Al Nasr for placing their trust in me and I hope to prove the worth of this good will,” he told his new club’s website after signing a two-year contract.
“I hope to meet the aspirations of the club’s board and its fans in the Arabian Gulf League and AFC Champions League.”
Awana scored eight times in 73 top-flight games since making his Sky Blues debut during September 2010. He was one of a handful of players to emerge with any credit from a frustrating 2015/16, with this form seeing him start the UAE’s 1-0 defeat by Syria in June’s King’s Cup.
A fierce battle now awaits to establish himself at the Blue Wave. Tariq Ahmed, Khalid Jalal and Amer Mubarak will provide strong competition for the two anchorman roles in coach Ivan Jovanovic’s favoured 4-2-3-1 formation, while Barrada should operate in the hole behind striker Wanderley.
Awana’s addition, at a minimum, should instil added quality and depth to a squad which appears much better equipped to scrap for a first Arabian Gulf League title since 1985/86.
Meanwhile, Cruzeiro have reportedly offered unwanted defensive midfielder Denilson an escape route out of Al Wahda.
Denilson, 28, did not travel with the Arabian Gulf Cup holders to Barcelona after being deemed surplus to requirements.
A season-long loan switch is close to being finalised with the Brazilian giants according to Superesportes, with an option to buy set at $2.5 million.