Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club have made emerging Al Dhafra midfelder Abdullah Al Naqbi their first Emirati addition since last summer’s merger.
Al Naqbi, 25, represented a highly coveted figure in the Arabian Gulf League’s nascent summer market after his outstanding displays on loan at Al Wasl in 2017/18. The third-placed Cheetahs were unable to meet the financial demands of the Western Knights, ultimately creating a chase between ambitious Sharjah and the Rashid Stadium-outfit.
This battle ended on Tuesday when the parties reached total agreement about a move to the latter. An official announcement is expected to be made on Wednesday.
Shabab Al Ahli had previously only operated in the foreign market since May 2017’s shock amalgamation. South Korean playmaker Moon Chang-jin was captured last summer and Croatian forward Ante Erceg followed in the winter.
An impressive free-transfer deal for emerging UAE and Al Jazira forward Ahmed Al Attas is also believed to have been sealed. The 22-year-old enjoyed a career-best return of six goals in 15 top-flight matches last term, despite the dethroned champions’ struggles.
If he is soon teamed up with Al Naqbi, this will represent a smart start to the transfer window for the managerless Shabab Al Ahli.
The Dhafra youth product scored once in 17 AGL matches on temporary terms at Zabeel Stadium. This form saw him drop on the radar of UAE coach Alberto Zaccheroni, although he is yet to make his debut.
Hasek, 54, returns to Fujairah Stadium for a second spell in charge. He previously engineered an incredible Arabian Gulf League-escape act for the Wolves in 2014/15, but was dismissed in the following March as they slid towards eventual relegation.
The post on the east coast had turned into a hot seat during recent weeks. Maradona was dismissed within hours of April 28’s failure to gain automatic promotion, with an aborted move to bring him back eventually leading to ex-UAE boss Dr Abdullah Mesfer guiding them to a narrow promotion play-off triumph against Hatta.
Hasek inherits a squad that has already been bolstered by the likes of Hatta’s prolific Brazilian midfielder Fernando Gabriel, Algerian forward Mohamed Benyettou from Al Shabab Riyadh and UAE Under-23 goalkeeper Abdullah Ismail from Al Nasr.
The 54-times-capped former midfielder lifted the top-flight crown with – the now defunct – Ahli back in 2009/10. But he’s gained a reputation as a relegation battler in recent years.
A miracle was performed to keep Emirates up in 2016/17. Yet he was gone by last October after his side opened the next campaign with just one win from their opening six league games.
Meanwhile, fellow new boys Bani Yas have selected ex-Croatia defensive midfielder Krunoslav Jurcic as the man to guide them back into the top flight.
Jurcic, 48, was unveiled by the First Division League champions on Monday at Bani Yas Stadium. He fills the vacancy left by the ruthless dismissal of Goran Tufegdzic, despite the Serbian securing an instant return after 2016/17’s painful relegation.
The ex-Torino and Sampdoria player has most recently found employment in Saudi Arabia. He led a ‘B’ team to a group-stage elimination at the winter’s Gulf Cup that featured a goalless draw with the UAE, then lasted just nine games in charge of faltering Riyadh giants Al Nassr in the Saudi Professional League.
Jurcic, 48, was unveiled by the First Division League champions on Monday at Bani Yas Stadium. He fills the vacancy left by the ruthless dismissal of Goran Tufegdzic, despite the Serbian securing an instant return to the top flight after 2016/17’s painful relegation.
The new man has most recently found employment in Saudi Arabia. He led a ‘B’ team to a group-stage elimination at the winter’s Gulf Cup that featured a goalless draw with the UAE, then lasted just nine games in charge of faltering Riyadh giants Al Nassr in the Saudi Professional League.
But the former Torino and Sampdoria player boasts rich experience in the dugout. A total of five trophies were won by him during three stints in charge of Dinamo Zagreb, while he’s also led teams in Slovenia (Maribor) and Turkey (Adanaspor).
The average win percentage accrued by him in 13 years managing across 10 different posts is 52.1 per cent, a figure that will give the Sky Blues board confidence that he can avoid an instant relegation.
They are yet to announce any additions to their squad.
Martinique winger Harry Novillo’s previous defection to Malaysia Super League champions Johor Darul Ta’zim has robbed Jurcic of a major goal threat.
On-loan Al Ittihad Alexandria forward Manucho struck 11 times in 12 appearances last term, but there has been no announcement made about his future.