The Arabian Gulf League’s summer transfer market continued to heat up on Wednesday with moves to Al Ain for Al Jazira midfielder Mohamed Jamal and confirmation of Uruguayan battler Nicolas Milesi’s season-long loan switch to Al Wahda from Al Dhafra.
Jamal, 25, was a key performer when the Pride of Abu Dhabi lifted the 2016/17 title and has only been denied his UAE debut by a succession of poorly timed injuries. His arrival on a free transfer represents another coup for the nation’s most-decorated club, following on from their recent €5.5 million capture of Al Wasl’s prolific Brazilian striker Caio Canedo.
“When you are given you the opportunity to belong to one of the best clubs in the region and the continent, you have to be well aware that a big responsibility lies in front of you,” said the former Manchester City trainee, who went goalless in 50 AGL appearances for Jazira and has inked a contract until July 2023.
Milesi, 26, represented a landmark capture for Dhafra once his trophy laden, two-year stint at Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal came to an end in July 2018. The uncapped Uruguayan – who notched once in 21 top-flight displays – replaces Moroccan misfit Murad Batna in the 2019 AFC Champions League knockouts entrants’ four-player foreign quota.
The Clarets are also expected to imminently tie up the arrival of Carlitos, 28, from Poland’s Legia Warsaw. The well-travelled Spanish forward registered on 16 occasions in 37 matches last season.
This surprising move has placed the future of Brazilian attacker Leonardo in serious doubt. The August 2018 addition from Al Ahli Jeddah notched 27 times in 35 run-outs last term, putting him as the eight-goal leading marksman in the 2019 ACL.
“Al Wahda has signed with the Uruguayan midfielder Nicolas Milesi as a loan for a single season from Al Dhafra,” Wahda tweeted. “Al Wahda administration council wishes all the best and the success for the player with the team.”
Both clubs have new coaches to lead rebuilds after they finished far behind runaway champions Sharjah.
VVV-Venlo’s Maurice Steijn was chosen as replacement for fellow Dutchman Henk ten Cate. The 64-year-old retired after leading Wahda to third.
Fourth-placed Al Ain selected Croatia’s Ivan Leko to succeed Juan Carlos Garrido. He claimed the 2017/18 Jupiler Pro League with Belgium’s Club Brugge.
Hearts of Al Nasr supporters were given a momentary flutter on Monday when Barcelona superstar Ivan Rakitic was pictured holding up their shirt.
Hopes of a monumental move to Al Maktoum Stadium for the 31-year-old, however, were swiftly ended when it was revealed he had been present for a shirt exchange ceremony while on vacation in Dubai.
The Blue Wave finished 2018/19 in a miserable eighth place in the Arabian Gulf League, despite the presence of ex-Spain and Manchester City striker Alvaro Negredo.
Elsewhere, Al Jazira and Al Wasl were revealed on Monday as the UAE’s participants in the 2019/20 Arab Club Champions Cup.
This repeat of the 2018/19 entrants – an edition won by Tunisia’s Étoile du Sahel – comes at the invitation of the Union of Arab Football Associations.
The long debate about the 2019/20 foreigners rule in the Saudi Professional League has ended after authorities announced only a minor reduction to seven players from last term’s eight.
Steady growth in the presence of non-Saudis had been under way since June 2017’s call to grow from four to six, with goalkeepers also being allowed in this quota for the first time. This figure had swelled to eight for 2018/19 – aided by last summer’s unprecedented $340 million cash injection from Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
The Saudi Arabian Football Federation commissioned an interim committee to study the impact after a reduction in playing opportunities for indigenous players, but an increase in international exposure brought about by the likes of Al Hilal’s ex-France centre forward Bafetimbi Gomis. Its report recommended a drop to January 2018’s level of seven foreigners, plus allow an extra spot for a Saudi Arabia-born non-national.
The announcement in the early hours of Monday morning also declared all seven, plus the expatriate, can be on the pitch at the same time.
The Saudi FF also declared that the summer transfer window will run from June 12-August 31 and the winter market is set to be open from January 1-31.
Al Wahda have gone double Dutch and hired VVV-Venlo’s Maurice Steijn as replacement for inspirational veteran Henk ten Cate.
The Clarets had been locked in talks with the 45-year-old coach since they were unable to convince his sage countryman to delay retirement, once again, and extend an impressive five-month stint at Al Nahyan Stadium. Agreement on a one-year renewable deal has been secured, meaning he will lead new employers into the 2019 AFC Champions League’s round-of-16 in August against Saudi Professional League holders Al Nassr.
Steijn has never previously worked away from his native Netherlands. A five-year stint at VVV – which made him the Eredivisie’s longest-serving boss – culminated with a 12th-placed finish in 2018/19.
“Al Wahda Football Club Company signed with the Dutch football manager Maurice Steijn, 46-years old, for a year on a renewable contract to take over the management of the football team as successor of Henk ten Cate, the previous manager of Al Wahda,” Wahda tweeted on Sunday.
“Maurice Steijn will start his tasks of managing and preparing the first team from the end of June in the training camp until August, where the team will be preparing for the next season and the 2019 AFC Champions League’s round-of-16.
“Al Wahda Management Council wishes the best for the football team and the manager, as well as his technical and management teams.”
Steijn also came close to replacing Ten Cate, 64, at Al Jazira for 2017/18. He will soon travel to the UAE with assistant coach Jay Driessen.
The former midfielder experienced an unremarkable playing career at ADO Den Haag and NAC Breda, prior to retiring in 2001.
He was an assistant at ADO and then led them from June 2011-February 2014. He joined VVV in July 2014, gaining promotion from the Eerste Divisie in his third season at the helm.
Wahda began last term miserably under Laurentiu Reghecampf, but recovered to finish third. They also halted a 12-year absence from the ACL knockouts.