Dominant Al Hilal centre-back Digao is set for a reunion with coach Giorgos Donis after he flew in yesterday morning to become the latest impressive addition by ambitious Sharjah.
Digao, 28, travelled to undergo a medical and seal a three-year contract ahead of joining up with his new team-mates at their Austrian training camp.
His procurement continues a sensational summer of business which began with the buy of feared Al Ittihad marksman Gelmin Rivas, as the King bid to avoid a third-successive brush with Arabian Gulf League relegation.
The Brazilian defender has been a leading figure at the Saudi Professional League giants since his December 2013 purchase from Fluminense for $6.5 million. This form saw him specifically requested by Donis upon arrival last week, with the pair previously working together at the Crescent from February 2015-May 2016.
“Sharjah reached an agreement with Al Hilal for the transfer of Brazilian Digao,” they tweeted. “He will sign after medical examinations.”
An alternative deal had been set-up for Venezuela international Wilker Angel. But Donis abandoned the pursuit of the 23-year-old Deportivo Tachira defender in favour of his former charge.
Digao leaves Riyadh after gaining the King’s Cup and Saudi Super Cup last year, as well as the 2015/16 Crown Prince Cup. He also was a fundamental part of the side which was shocked by Australia’s Western Sydney Wanderers in the 2015 AFC Champions League final.
In total, he scored four times during 88 appearances in all competitions. Despite never lifting the SPL crown, he gained an incredible 24 clean sheets in 45 league outings. Such figures will be a boon for Sharjah, who conceded 40 goals in 26 AGL games last season.
Digao is set to become the second piece of eye-catching business carried out by the five-time top-flight champions. A fortnight ago they impressively brought in 27-year-old Rivas, who was second top scorer with 19 SPL goals last term.
A further two spots remain open in their four-player foreign quota. Kuwait midfielder Aziz Mashaan, 27, has been linked with taking up the Asian spot, while Donis could be set to raid Hilal again for 31-year-old Brazilian forward Ailton.
Sweeping change has occurred at Sharjah Stadium. Rookie boss Abdulaziz Al Anbari exited following an 11th-placed finish in 2015/16. Prolific striker Wanderley left earlier this month to join 2016 AFC Champions League quarter-finalists Al Nasr, ending an exceptional two-year spell which included 32 goals in 51 top-flight displays.
They decided not to continue with Brazilian defender Mauricio Ramos, or turn loan moves for attacking midfielders Maicosuel or Ricardinho permanent.
Manic, temperamental, controversial, uncontrollable, charismatic, committed, competitive, engaging and belligerent. But never, ever boring.
These are just some of the ways to describe Arabian Gulf League veteran Walter Zenga, who is sure to be remembered in time as one of the most complex characters to take charge of Wolverhampton Wanderers after his surprise hiring on Saturday.
An array of personalities have gone through the doors at Molineux during the grand old club’s 139-year history. Managers like Stan Cullis, Major Frank Buckley and – in more recent times – Mick McCarthy were not shrinking violets.
Yet in the shock installation of the serial UAE appointee, the Midlanders’ new Chinese owners have taken the pin out of a live grenade and chucked it into the Championship fray. They must hope the fight to regain top-flight status brings the best out of a capricious man embarking on the 16th post of an 18-year spell in the dugout.
His time spent at a total of four AGL clubs has proven Fosun International could not have chosen a more contrasting figure to replace the diplomatic Kenny Jackett. Mixed success and volatile behaviour detailed spells at Al Ain, Al Nasr, Al Jazira and, lastly, Al Shaab for the long-term Palm Jumeirah resident.
The 56-year-old’s first taste of Middle Eastern football was a fleeting one, lasting just five months in the Garden City during 2007 before being sacked. A rare anchor point came at Nasr from 2011-13 – the longest stationing of a peripatetic coaching career – in which two top-three finishes from three were attained.
He proved a competent firefighter when leading the Pride of Abu Dhabi up to third in 2013/14, prior to a strangely-neutered three months with Shaab last season. Before his February departure, he was incapable of fixing the chronic problems at a doomed side as his four points from 11 games contributed to a lowest-ever tally in the professional era.
Explosive arguments with journalists are a given. Fireworks will follow at his unveiling as the inevitable questions follow from the indomitable British press pack about his suitability and the harsh handling of his predecessor’s exit. He must learn to show self-restraint to survive. Don’t forget this is the man who caused a diplomatic incident in 2012 after he railed against a “stupid question” from a “nobody” reporter while at Nasr. He also – among many other occasions – exploded at a press conference in May 2014 as he blasted away questions about his future at Jazira after an AFC Champions league round-of-16 exit to Al Ain – he was dismissed days later.
Such bile will undoubtedly spew forth at opposition managers and referees in England’s hotly-contested second division. Yet among all the controversy is an undoubted ability to form relationships with players.
His 58 caps for Italy and status as Internazionale’s greatest-ever goalkeeper guarantees respect, while his squad will soon know he will always fight for them in return.
This can be seen in the warm words still spoken about him by UAE midfielder Habib Fardan, for example, an excellent player taken under his wing at Nasr. Similarly, his presence in the Al Maktoum Stadium stands when unemployed throughout 2014/15 was greeted by his former charges rubbing their heads at him to his enjoyment, a jovial and playful reaction to his bald head.
He comes to Wolves on the back of a campaign of contrasts. Harshly sacked by Serie A outfit Sampdoria when in 10th during November, then listlessly going through the motions at Shaab. Regaining the defining spark lost during his last UAE posting will be key to hopes of future success at his ruthlessly-ambitious employers.
Zenga, 56, was announced yesterday as the surprise replacement for the controversially-dismissed Kenny Jackett by the Championship club’s new Chinese owners.
This unforeseen development saw the ex-Al Ain, Al Nasr and Al Jazira supremo return to employment after an ill-fated three-month stint at bottom-placed Al Shaab ended by mutual consent in February.
The temperamental former Internazionale and Italy goalkeeper is expected to bring great experience to the hotseat – his first in British football – following time in charge of European clubs such as Steaua Bucharest, Red Star Belgrade, Catania,
Palermo and Sampdoria. He had been linked to Premier League’s Southampton last month. Wolves’ main director Jeff Shi told the club’s official website: “We’re delighted to appoint Walter as the new head coach of Wolves.
“He has an excellent track record both as a player and as a coach, and a wealth of experience he can bring to his new role at Wolves. Walter is a hugely passionate personality who lives for football and is fiercely determined to succeed in everything that he does.
“We are looking forward to working with him, and supporting him in the shared aim of trying to help Wolves achieve promotion back to the Premier League.”
Zenga endured a tumultuous 2015/16. He departed Sampdoria in Novmeber with the club 10th in Serie A – they eventually finished 15th – after only joining them the previous summer, before gaining just four points in 11 games as he failed to arrest doomed Shaab’s slide in the UAE.
The Milan-native watched yesterday’s friendly against Swansea from the stands as Rob Edwards, Wolves’ first-team coach, took care of first-team affairs.
After Jackett’s exit, Shi said: “I would like to sincerely thank Kenny for everything he’s done for Wolves over the last three years. He’s shown true professionalism.”