Shrewdness is not a quality associated with Arabian Gulf League clubs at this time of year.
They, typically, lollop through the hectic summer transfer market. A near-sighted recklessness is then welcomed by rapacious agents eager to rid them of their dirhams.
Unheralded foreign additions are regularly recruited in July, via unscrupulous recommendation, and gone by January. It is also not unheard of for some not to last until the new season’s kick-off.
Only six of the 14 outfits in the 2018/19 competition declined to alter their foreign quartet at the midway point. Crisis clubs Al Nasr, Emirates Club, Fujairah and Dibba Al Fujairah churned through three quarters of their non-Emiratis when they desperately sought to alleviate the damage rendered by pre-season folly.
Remarkable prudence, however, has been exhibited by the nation’s most-decorated institution as they astutely plot a route back to glory after a wretched previous campaign.
Al Ain have concluded the majority of their recruitment before any of their direct rivals have stirred and in ample time for fresh parts to bed in. And, at a price in keeping with UAE football’s straitened reality.
Their example, if it gains requisite and predicted success in the months ahead, is one that should be heeded at a time when largesse from patrons are diminishing and organising body, the Pro League Committee, is preaching the merits of self sustainability.
A manic Thursday in the Garden City witnessed Al Ain announce deals for two of Africa’s fastest-emerging players. Diminutive Algerian winger Abderrahmane Meziane helped inspire USM Alger’s first Ligue Professionnelle 1 title in three seasons, while Togo forward Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba was the eight-goal leading marksman in the 2018/19 CAF Confederation Cup with Morocco’s RS Berkane.
Both were pursued by Egyptian titans Al Ahly, among other suitors from across the region. Both were convinced that their future aims were best served in Al Ain.
This is a fruitful market that has been curiously ignored by many AGL competitors. Only five deals were concluded with clubs from that continent, throughout the 2018/19 cycle.
This followed on from midweek moves for a pair of promising Emirati midfielders, Mohamed Jamal of Al Jazira and Ajman’s Mohammed Helal.
All generated excitement. Not one of them cost a fee.
This astute approach was also applied to landing a new coach.
Ex-Croatia midfielder Ivan Leko was named Belgium’s Professional Manager of the Year for 2017/18 after he led Club Brugge to that season’s title.
He bid farewell to Jan Breydel Stadium in May after his two-year contract expired and pitched up at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.
Even when Al Ain spent cash, it went on a proven option. The €5.3 million paid to Al Wasl for Caio Canedo secured a Brazilian striker that has netted 68 times in 113 AGL run-outs.
This figure was largely covered by the money profited on Egypt midfielder Hussein El Shahat when he was sold to Ahly after a red-hot 2018 Club World Cup.
This pressing need for financial acumen has been painfully learned.
An enormous windfall was spurned last summer when golden boy Omar Abdulrahman was allowed to run down his contract and join Saudi Professional League giants Al Hilal. Brazilian attacker Caio is now set to join Benfica on a free transfer, denying club accounts of yet more precious cash.
Portuguese playmaker Ruben Ribeiro caused open revolt under Juan Carlos Garrido in the second half of 2018/19. Mali anchorman Tongo Doumbia is also unwanted and still, apparently, attached.
Sweden striker Marcus Berg’s travails – and subsequent departure – after a prolific 2017/18 mean a long-term successor to Asamoah Gyan is yet to be unearthed. The Ghana superstar departed for Shanghai SIPG in July 2015.
Al Ain, as defending champions, finished three places and 13 points behind shock winners Sharjah.
It’s not even July and, yet, such a disheartening outcome seems a world away after profligacy made way for acuity.
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.