Al Jazira are open to cashing in on UAE international Ali Mabkhout amid strong interest from Saudi Professional League giants Al Ittihad, according to reports.
Mabkhout, 28, has emerged as one of Asia’s premier strikers. He was leading marksmen at Asian Cup 2015 and sits fourth on the Arabian Gulf League’s all-time scorers list with 128 goals in 169 run-outs.
The Pride of Abu Dhabi have in the past rejected advances from European and Saudi outfits. This time, however, Abu Dhabi Sports have stated they will sell to an Ittihad eager to ensure their struggles of 2018/19 are not repeated – if the price is right.
This stance follows tweets from respected commentator Amer Abdulla.
“I have received a lot of inquiries about the subject of the transfer of the star Ali Mabkhout to the Saudi club,” he posted.
“As I have confirmed, a telephone call was made by a member of the Ittihad board to an official at Al Jazira.
“It showed a desire to contract with Mabkhout. They were asked to make a formal offer and in principle, [Jazira] do not mind if the offer is fit for a big star.”
Big-spending Ittihad looked bound for a first relegation in their 92-year history, until a late resurgence under returning boss Jose Luis Sierra saw them finish 10th in the SPL.
They are now looking to revamp a lavishly assembled squad that critically underperformed for much of the previous campaign.
Links to Jazira were strengthened last summer when they landed Brazilian forward Romarinho from them for €7m.
Mabkhout will depart as a legend of UAE football, if the move goes through. His current tally of 19 goals in 18 AGL appearances puts him joint-second in the 2018/19 scoring list.
It would also represent the second-successive summer that an elite Emirati talent was lost to the Kingdom. 2016 AFC Player of the Year Omar Abdulrahman exited Al Ain and joined Al Hilal on a controversial free transfer in August.
Eliminated and deflated Al Ain intend to make “a good impression” when they wind up their 2019 AFC Champions League commitments in Monday’s dead rubber against Iran’s Esteghlal.
A miserable contest awaits at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium. Both sides have conceded their domestic titles in recent weeks, plus cannot proceed from Group C’s final round in the continental competition.
For the hosts, this is the first time they’ve failed to advance into the knockouts in six years. Coach Juan Carlos Garrido, however, insisted there was still something to play for during their last run-out of an unfulfilling campaign.
“Despite the fact that the team is out of the competition as one of two qualifiers for the round of 16, it is a good opportunity for some to leave a good impression,” said the ex-Villarreal tactician, whose short-term deal in the Garden City imminently expires.
“We are required to show fighting spirit and achieve a strong result at the end of our Asian games.
“The truth is that our next game is very important for the reasons I have mentioned before, so we will work to show our best. We will adopt the best methods to appear well at the end of our Champions League matches.”
The sides played out a 1-1 draw in Tehran during March, meaning victory on home soil for the beaten 2016 finalists will at least save them the indignity of finishing last.
There is also a familiar face in the Esteghlal ranks, which will painfully remind Al Ain of better times. Coach Farhad Majidi played an influential role in the Boss’ 2002/03 ACL success, scoring in the semi-finals against China’s Dalian Shide en route to glory.
Al Ain’s current No9, Marcus Berg, has not been able to deliver such joy in a poor second season. The out-of-sorts Sweden marksman has notched just once in his last 19 matches for club and country.
“Every team is looking forward to the three points, especially for us, because we are going to play the last game at home,” said Berg, who is expected to be replaced by Al Taawoun’s Leandre Tawamba in the summer. “We would like to leave a good impression with the conclusion of our matches at home and we will work to appear in a dignified way.”
Al Ain travel to Al Wahda on Saturday for their final top-flight fixture. Victory will salvage 2020 ACL qualification from a sorry season.
Al Ain have identified King’s Cup winning Al Taawoun coach Pedro Emanuel as the man to revitalise the UAE’s most-decorated club and have made an offer worth more than €5 million to land him, according to reports.
Emanuel, 44, was crowned the Saudi Professional League’s Coach of the Year on Saturday night after an incredible debut campaign that included a remarkable third-placed finish and gaining of the grandest prize in his employer’s 63-year history. Such exploits have gone unnoticed, elsewhere.
O Jogo has stated the 2003/04 UEFA Champions League winner with Porto has informed Taawoun he will not extend a one-year contract that expires next month. Al Ain have proposed a deal worth €5.3m for two seasons that the ex-defender is seriously considering.
The Boss have imploded in the second half of 2018/19, ceding their Arabian Gulf League crown to Sharjah and looking destined to finish a distant third. Ex-Villarreal tactician Juan Carlos Garrido has endured mixed results since he replaced Al Hilal defector Zoran Mamic in January and is not expected to stay beyond next Saturday’s final match at Al Wahda.