Jurgen Streppel’s Al Jazira reign has kicked off with the capture of experienced midfielder Sultan Al Ghaferi on a free transfer.
Al Ghaferi, 32, who moves from neighbours Al Wahda, will join his new ‘Pride of Abu Dhabi’ team-mates for the first time during this month’s summer training camp in the Netherlands for the 2019/20 season. He will be overseen there by new coach Streppel, who joined last month as replacement for fellow Dutchman Damien Hertog.
The bargain signing brings plenty of nous to the club, having featured in nearly 150 Arabian Gulf League matches and started five times upon the Clarets’ charge to the 2019 AFC Champions League’s knockouts. He has also represented the UAE, winning five caps.
Prior to joining Wahda, where he spent four years, Al Ghaferi had enjoyed spells at Bani Yas and Al Ain.
Ayed Mabkhout, board member of Al Jazira and CEO of the Football Company, said: “We are delighted that Al Ghaferi has signed with our club and we are all looking forward to working with him. His talent and football mentality will be invaluable to the squad.
“He brings in a lot of experience with him which our young players will benefit from and we believe he will help these youngsters reach their potential through our campaign in the new season.”
Al Ghaferi added: “I feel honoured for the club to place their trust in my abilities and I will perform at my best to contribute the success of the Pride of Abu Dhabi and promise the fans to bring them joy through our performance.
“I am looking forward to working with Jurgen Struppel and his coaching staff. I look forward to this new challenge and be part of the club’s vision that is truly exciting and I am so happy that I will be a part of that.”
Jazira finished fifth in the 2018/19 AGL, missing out on qualification to the 2020 continental competition.
Arabian Gulf League heavyweights Al Ain have begun trimming their squad after an emphatic start to the summer transfer window, sending Mali defensive midfielder Tongo Doumbia to Ajman and loaning left-back Saeed Al Menhali to Ittihad Kalba.
Doumbia, 29, has inked a two-year deal with the Orange Brigade. The towering former Rennes, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Toulouse and Dinamo Zagreb battler was registered exclusively for the Boss’ 2018 Club World Cup and 2019 AFC Champions League rosters.
He was overlooked for their 2019/20 top-flight squad, despite three of four foreign players departing. A new challenge awaits at a mid-table outfit who shed Senegalese striker Mame Baba Thiam to Turkey’s Kasimpasa earlier this week, plus landed Emirati striker Mohammed Ibrahim from surprise champions Sharjah.
Al Menhali, 25, has inked a one-season temporary switch to Kalba. The unwanted youth product made only six top-flight appearances for the Boss in 2018/19.
Al Ain have been exceptionally busy this month as they attempt to rebuild in the wake of last term’s distant fourth-placed finish.
Diminutive Algerian winger Abderrahmane Meziane, highly rated Togo forward Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba and Dh25 million-rated Al Wasl forward Caio Canedo have bolstered their foreign ranks. Domestically, successful moves have been made for promising midfielders Mohamed Jamal of Al Ain and Mohammed Helal of Ajman.
These troops will be overseen by ex-Croatia midfielder Ivan Leko.
The 41-year-old – who replaces Spain’s Juan Carlos Garrido – was named Belgium’s Professional Manager of the Year for 2017/18 after he led Club Brugge to that season’s title.
Meanwhile, Portuguese minnows Portimonense are expected to soon finish Brazilian striker Iury de Castilho’s unremarkable stint at Al Nasr.
Iury, 23, was signed from the Ukraine’s Zorya Luhansk in June 2018 and then deregistered in September once ex-Spain centre forward Alvaro Negredo was landed. He failed to spark on loan at Saudi Arabia’s Al Fayha in the second half of the campaign.
O Jogo has reported agreement on a three-year contract in the Algarve.
Nicolas Milesi declared himself “proud” to sign for Al Wahda with the Uruguayan midfielder happy to be playing for another big Middle East club following a successful spell with Saudi Arabia giants Al Hilal.
The 26-year-old central midfielder was officially unveiled at a press conference held at Al Nahyan Stadium on Monday, alongside fellow new Clarets recruits Al Hussain Saleh and Brazilian teenager Eduardo Voltan da Silva – better known as Dudu.
“It’s a very proud moment for me to be in this club,” said Milesi, who has signed on a 12-month loan deal from fellow UAE side Al Dhafra after notching one goal in 21 league appearances last term.
“It’s a challenge for me, to work hard and obtain the best for the club. I’m going to work hard and I’m proud to be here. I’m very happy.”
One-time Atletico Paranaense player Milesi left South America when he joined the Crescent in 2016, enjoying a trophy-laden two-year spell.
Milesi lifted back-to-back top-flight Saudi titles in 2016/17 and 2017/18, as well as the 2017 Kings Cup with Hilal, scoring six goals in 59 appearances.
He added: “I played in another big team in the Middle East with Hilal, I was champion twice there and one of the stars of a big team. For me to be here is a new challenge, because it’s a team that’s bigger than Dhafra.”
It was a busy day for the Abu Dhabi giants who also introduced new coach Maurice Steijn to waiting media – the 45-year-old Dutchman replaces compatriot Hen ten Cate, who left the club after a brief but successful five-month stint.
Ten Cate, who previously led capital city rivals Al Jazira to the Arabian Gulf League title in 2016/17, took Wahda to a third-place AGL finish and also led the club into the AFC Champions League knockout stages.
They take on 2018/19 Saudi Pro League champions Al Nassr early next month – the first time they will appear in the latter stages of the continental tournament since 2007, when they made it to the semi-finals.
Winger Saleh, 27, moves to Wahda from Dubai’s Al Nasr while diminutive forward Dudu, just 18, arrives from Sao Paulo’s Esporte Clube Sao Bernardo.