Al Ain’s extensive summer refit has continued apace with the captures of USM Alger’s Algerian winger Abderrahmane Meziane and promising Ajman midfielder Mohamed Helal.
Meziane, 25, comes to the Garden City on a four-year contract as a direct replacement for Benfica-bound Brazilian forward Caio. The uncapped wide man will be expected to add drive and flair to his employer’s front line after they finished a distant fourth in the 2018/19 Arabian Gulf League.
An important seven strikes in 24 Ligue Professionnelle 1 run-outs from him helped L’USMA to last term’s title. He is joined at the Boss, on a five-year deal, by 23-year-old Helal, who went goalless in 18 top-flight appearances for the mid-table Orange Brigade.
Al Ain have already paid Al Wasl €5.3 million for their prolific Brazilian attacker Caio Canedo, 28, and swept up Al Jazira midfielder Mohamed Jamal, 25, on a free transfer. An announcement about the arrival of Togo and RS Berkane flyer Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba, 27, is reported to be imminent, with only versatile Japan defender Tsukasa Shiotani retained from last season’s four-player foreign quota.
Former Croatia midfielder Ivan Leko has been named as successor to Spanish coach Juan Carlos Garrido. The 41-year-old was selected as Belgium’s Professional Manager of the Year for 2017/18 after he led Club Brugge to glory in the Jupiler Pro League.
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.