Sweden centre forward Marcus Berg’s hopes of pushing through a moneymaking move to Al Ain received a significant boost on Friday night when Panathinaikos vowed they are “willing to work for a compromise”.
Berg, 30, was ordered to leave the Garden City in midweek after he spent time agreeing a three-year deal, worth €3 million (Dh12.3m) per annum, and viewing accommodation. The 2016/17 Superleague Greece’s 22-goal top scorer had travelled in the belief that a €2.5 million (Dh10.3m) switch was imminent, but his current employers raised their “perfectly reasonable” demands to €5.2 m (Dh21.4m) – a fee the Boss baulked at.
The ex-Hamburg and PSV Eindhoven star’s hopes of inking the most-lucrative deal of his career appeared over, prior to a desire being communicated that a reduced figure closer to €3.5-4m (Dh14.4-16.5m) would be acceptable.
“Panathinaikos did not intend to sell Marcus Berg,” read a club statement about the target man who has struck 12 times in 47 internationals. “But for his own reasons, he chose another path.
“The football club is willing to work for a compromise recognising the services that Marcus has offered to the group.”
If secured, Berg would present a significant improvement up top for a club who have struggled to replace the iconic Asamoah Gyan since his July 2015 sale to China’s Shanghai SIPG. Berg has scored 73 times in 116 top-flight games since his July 2013 arrival in Athens, plus he started June 9’s 2-1 victory for Sweden against France in World Cup 2018 qualifying.
Only Brazilian winger Caio, 23, will be retained from last term’s four-player foreign quota as Al Ain aim to dramatically improve during Croatian coach Zoran Mamic’s first full season in charge after a disappointing fourth-placed finish in the Arabian Gulf League.
Japan centre-back Tsukasa Shiotani of Sanfrecce Hiroshima has replaced South Korea anchorman Lee Mung-joo after three years of exemplary service.
The club had no desire to retain Saudi Arabia striker Nasser Al Shamrani, despite a four-month loan spell from Al Hilal – their 2017 AFC Champions League quarter-final opponents in two months – containing eight strikes in 10 AGL games. Turkey’s Bursaspor have bid €1.5m (Dh6.2m) for erratic Colombian winger Danilo Asprilla.
Meanwhile, Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club’s inaugural roster has continued to take shape after Moldova forward Henrique Luvannor inked an extension.
Brazil-born Luvannor, 27, tweeted he had “no idea what’s happening” in the immediate aftermath of last month’s shock merger.
But a return of 25 goals in 67 AGL games at Al Shabab has convinced Romanian supremo Cosmin Olaroiu to retain him in the non-Emirati quartet, alongside his ex-Al Ahli charge Makhete Diop of Senegal.
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The next season of domestic action in the UAE is scheduled to kick-off with a reformatted Arabian Gulf Cup on September 4 after the Pro League Committee revealed its calendar on Tuesday for 2017/18.
For the first time since 2011/12, the top flight will drop down to 12 teams following last month’s shock merger of Al Shabab, Al Ahli – the AGC holders – and promoted Dubai CSC to create Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club.
This call has instantly impacted the nation’s secondary cup tournament. It will now be played out in two groups of six, with the top four from each meeting in the quarter-finals – previously, only the first two teams progressed from the pools to the semi-finals.
Elsewhere, the Arabian Gulf Cup between Arabian Gulf League winners Al Jazira and President’s Cup champions Al Wahda will take place on September 15 – a decision on venue is yet to be made.
The top-flight entertainment begins a day later, with all domestic play set to end on April 29 to give time for World Cup 2018 preparation.
Al Ain and their opponents will be the only teams to feature on September 4 because of the Boss’ commitments in the 2017 AFC Champions League’s quarter-finals. The rest of the participants will take to the field on September 8 and 9.
Another alteration for next term is the introduction of online ticket sales. This is viewed as an important method of increased revenue generation as the competition moves away from hard ticket sales.
Greek giants Panathinaikos have vowed not to block Sweden star Marcus Berg’s lucrative move to Al Ain as long as their “perfectly reasonable demands” are met.
Berg, 30, has emerged as a stellar cure to the Boss’ long-term problems up top ever since they sanctioned the sale of the iconic Asamoah Gyan to Shanghai SIPG in July 2015. A fee of about €5 million (Dh20.4m) fee has been demanded for the man – who has already travelled to the Garden City – with 12 goals in 47 international appearances and started Blagult’s 2-1 World Cup 2018 qualifying win against France on June 9.
Reacting on Tuesday, his amenable current employers stated they would not provide unmovable resistance to their star striker’s desire to push a transfer through.
“We understand the possible desire of the player to gain at this stage of his career a move with significant economic benefit,” said the side for whom Berg has struck 73 times in 116 Superleague Greece clashes since a July 2013 move from Hamburg
“Panathinaikos does not intend to stand in the way of these efforts of Marcus, with the prerequisite that perfectly reasonable demands of the club will be met.
“Although obvious, we wish to point out that Panathinaikos wants to continue with Marcus. But if financial, family and other reasons drive him to another choice for his career, we will respect it.”
Al Ain have added Japan defender Tsukasa Shiotani this month to their four-player foreign quota.
Berg was top scorer in last season’s Greek top flight as To Trifylli – the Shamrock – finished third. He has also played for IFK Goteborg in his homeland, plus Groningen and PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands.
The attacker – who is renowned for his heading ability – first came to prominence with a record seven goals in four games for Sweden at the 2009 UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship.
Al Ain have churned through Nigeria’s Emmanuel Emenike, Brazilian Douglas and Saudi Arabia’s Nasser Al Shamrani since Gyan departed. Their return of 58 goals was 14 less than 2016/17 Arabian Gulf League champions Al Jazira, as they finished fourth.
Berg will be expected to lead a charge into the 2017 AFC Champions League quarter-finals against Saudi giants Al Hilal.
Meanwhile, Garden City alumnus Jorge Valdivia’s career has come full circle after he returned to boyhood side Colo-Colo now his Al Wahda contract has expired.
Valdivia, 33, underwhelmed with the Clarets as the Chile playmaker’s heralded summer 2015 switch yielded just eight goals and eight assists in 34 AGL games.