Al Ain’s quest to impress upon this month’s Club World Cup debut has seen them conclude a free transfer for Mali defensive midfielder Tongo Doumbia and close on the complicated recruitment of ex-Sporting Lisbon playmaker Ruben Ribeiro.
The Boss’ victory in the 2017/18 Arabian Gulf League granted them a berth as the home entrant for the tournament, from December 12-22. This global event has no restrictions on the use of foreigners, unlike the UAE’s top flight that only allows the registration of four non-Emiratis.
Ex-Dinamo Zagreb anchor Doumbia, 29, has signed a two-year arrangement, while a successful conclusion is imminently expected on drafting in Ribeiro. The 31-year-old unilaterally terminated his Sporting contract in the wake of May’s assault on the training ground by angry supporters, though the Portuguese club contest his right to do this and have demanded any suitors pay a €62 million release clause.
These switches will reignite rumours about the long-term futures of half of their resident non-UAE quartet. Brazilian forward Caio has been linked to Porto and his deal expires next summer, while Egypt midfielder Hussein El Shahat is coveted by Al Ahly plus a host of Saudi Professional League-outfits.
“As for Ruben’s file, we are still awaiting the approval letter from FIFA officials on our letter addressed to them through the UAE Football Association and the Players Status Committee to approve the registration of the player,” said chairman Ghanem Al Hajeri.
“The player, himself, has an official document issued by the Portuguese Sports Court and certified by the Portuguese Football Association stipulating that the he a free player. All is on the right track.
“We confirm that the registration processes for both Ruben and Doumbia kicked off on September 31.”
Al Ain play New Zealand’s Team Wellington in December 12’s first-round clash at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium. Holders Real Madrid are the headline entrant among the seven regional Champions League winners, plus Al Ain.
Al Wasl’s awful results in the Arabian Gulf League will not “fool” defending champions Al Ain, according to defender Mohamed Ahmed.
A chasm of 14 points and nine places separate the joint leaders – along with Sharjah and Al Jazira – from Monday night’s relegation-threatened hosts at Zabeel Stadium. This represents a dramatic decline for the Cheetahs, who finished third last term.
“Al Wasl’s results this season will not fool us,” said Ahmed. “This is because they have excellent players in their squad, but they did not appear at their best during the league.
“In the Zayed Champions Cup, they played distinguished teams [Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad and Egypt’s Al Ahly] and fought to make the quarter-finals of the competition.
“We will be keen to deal with high concentration during our next game and I hope that we will win the three points, with all respect for the ambitions of the opposing team.
“Al Ain and Al Wasl are certainly the two biggest teams in the UAE and I believe that the presence of Al Ain’s supporters is an important motivation for the team to achieve strong results.”
The Boss’ charge to earn a fifth top-flight win in six matches has been hindered by the continued absences of UAE midfielders Amer Abdulrahman and Rayan Yaslam.
Wasl will hope that Caio Canedo is fit to feature. The Brazilian striker scored a superb long-range leveller in last week’s 1-1 draw at Sharjah for his seventh goal in 11 2018/19 AGL matches, but received a head knock.
إيماناً بدور الجماهير، فقد أطلقت إدارة النادي مبادرة #المدرج_الأصفر والمتمثلة في دخول المشجعين الذين يرتدون قميص الفريق الأساسي الذي أنتجته شركة نيو بالانس مدرجات الدرجة الثانية بشكل مجاني طوال مباريات الفريق المحلية هذا الموسم، رغبة في خلق مدرج أصفر في مباريات الفريق في زعبيل. pic.twitter.com/FJ1f2rlCM1— Al Wasl SC (@AlWaslSC) December 2, 2018
Meanwhile, coach Fabio Viviani has told his Ittihad Kalba charges they must not take anything for granted when they look to arrest their slump against bottom-placed Dibba Al Fujairah.
The yo-yo club’s seven-match winless run has seen them drop down to ninth in the table, just four points above the relegation zone. This is a better state of affairs than the sorry visitors to Ittihad Kalba Stadium, who have won just one of their 11 fixtures.
“We have a strong and difficult game against Dibba,” said ex-AC Milan midfielder Viviani.
“Most teams in the league are close in both points and levels of performance. The game will not be as easy as some think.
“We should focus on the game and not pay attention to the difference in the table.”
The night’s final match sees Al Wahda’s temporary boss Al Hay Juma look to continue his winning start when undefeated Sharjah come to the capital.
Juma beat Ajman 2-1 last week in his first match since Laurentiu Reghecampf was dismissed after five winless matches.
Al Nasr have sacked coach Ivan Jovanovic for a second time after a mixed start to the 2018/19 Arabian Gulf League and promoted title-winning former Brazil Under-17 coach Caio Zanardi to be his replacement.
Jovanovic, 56, was brought back to the Blue Wave last January as replacement for ex-Italy tactician Cesare Prandelli. This followed a triumphant previous spell in charge from June 2013-October 2016 that included the end of a 25-year trophy drought with the 2014 GCC Club Cup, plus an Arabian Gulf Cup and President’s Cup-double a season later.
Results have not matched the previous standard, despite the summer recruitment of ex-France midfielder Yohan Cabaye and former Spain striker Alvaro Negredo. Their first four top-flight matches in 2018/19 ended in defeat, while Friday’s terminal 1-0 reversal at Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club left the big-spending club 10th.
Zanardi, 45, has now been moved up from technical director – a position he has held there in two periods. His previous jobs include winning the 2013 Toulon Tournament with a Brazil U-17 squad that featured now Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson.
“I extend my sincere thanks and appreciation to Ivan Jovanovic,” said Nasr president Abdulrahman Obaid. “I also extend my best wishes to Caio Zanardi, the new coach of our first team.
“To all lovers and fans of the club, we will soon return to our natural position among the top clubs.”
Zanardi held his first training session on Sunday, ahead of promoted side Fujairah’s visit to Dubai on Tuesday in the AGL.