Veteran Greek goalkeeper Dimitrios ‘Dimi’ Konstantopoulos is being linked with a move to a Dubai club after leaving Championship side Middlesbrough.
The 40-year-old, capped once by his nation in 2011, is believed to be mulling over a lucrative 12-month deal with an as yet unnamed Arabian Gulf League club.
However, it might be in a coaching capacity as AGL rules prohibit clubs buying foreign keepers. UAE sides previously were able to include four foreign players in a matchday squad, with one being of Asian ethnicity or with an Asian qualified passport.
But rules were changed last summer allowing clubs to include up to five other players who are either UAE passport holders, players born to Emirati women, or UAE residents.
But rules remain in place stating goalkeepers must be Emirati, lending weight to the possibility that Konstantopoulos could be set for a coaching role, like former Arsenal stopper Manuel Almunia, who is a goalkeeping coach at Al Jazira.
The former AEK Athens custodian has spoken with former Boro team-mate Alvaro Negredo who is with Dubai-based Al Nasr and admitted he is already planning for when he does finally hang up his gloves.
“My plan is that I want to coach after I retire but I have not set a date for when that is,” he told the Northern Echo.
“I have done my B Licence and now I am working towards my A.”
Jumaa, a highly-decorated icon of UAE football, has returned to the club he spent 19 years at to take on the role of team manager, where he will work closely with new Dutch coach Maurice Steijn.
The former ADO Den Haag and VVV-Venlo manager was announced as compatriot Henk ten Cate’s replacement on June 24, when Jumaa’s celebrated return to Al Nahyan Stadium was also confirmed following his exit as a player 12 years ago.
“First of all I am so happy to be again in my club, and my home,” Juma, 42, told Sport360.
“I started my career here and I have to return something for this club. I hope that I can do something. It’s a new challenge for me as team manager.”
The 49-times capped UAE international spent a decade in the Wahda first team from 1997-2007, having emerged through the youth ranks, before leaving for capital city rivals Al Jazira, where he spent five more years.
The former defensive midfielder wrapped up his playing career at another Abu Dhabi-affiliated club, Al Dhafra, with whom he finally brought the curtain down on his illustrious playing days in 2016, aged 39.
He then immediately jumped into the Western Knights dugout as team manager, but is now back where it all began.
And he has one key goal above all others – to win the AGL title, something the Clarets have not been able to do since 2009/10. Jumaa was part of that championship-winning side nine years ago; it was one of three he lifted while with his boyhood club (also in 1998/99 and 2000/01).
He also lifted the 2000 President’s Cup with Wahda, while another league (2010/11) and two more President’s Cup (2011 and 12) successes followed with Jazira.
“Al Wahda have not been a champion for too long so we are going to work for that,” added Jumaa.
“Me, the technical staff, the players, the medical staff, the administration, we will start to work for that.
“It was too long, but this is a new challenge for me. I was a player here and won a lot of things and I hope as team manager to win a lot of things again.”
Another goal for both Jumaa and the club is a crack at the continent and the AFC Champions League crown. The Clarets face Al Nassr, champions of Saudi Arabia, in the opening knockout round of this year’s competition next month.
The first leg of the round-of-16 clash takes place at Riyadh’s King Fahd International Stadium on August 5, with the return leg in Abu Dhabi a week later.
The Champions League is also a competition Wahda hope to reassert themselves in. They will be rewriting history next month, the Nassr tie will be the first time they are playing in a knockout game in the competition for over a decade, since they lost 3-1 on aggregate to Iran’s Sepahan in 2007.
Jumaa was part of the squad back then and is keen for the Clarets to make an impression.
“It’s very important for Al Wahda. We are looking forward to the Asia Cup,” he added.
“We know it will not be easy, it will be difficult because we are going to play a strong team that are champions in their league. But we have to not forget ourselves that we are a big team and a good team, so I hope that we will work hard in the camp to prepare ourselves for this match.”
Jumaa and the club are currently preparing for that Nassr tie in the Netherlands, where they are in the midst of a three-week training camp.
Jumaa is the oldest of three brothers, with both Abdulraheem and Ahmed having also represented the UAE.
When Jumaa left for Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in 2007, Ahmed, the youngest of the three brothers, followed him a year later and they were joined by Abdulraheem in 2011.
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.