Promoted Khor Fakkan spelled out their intention to compete in the Arabian Gulf League on Wednesday night with a trio of impressive Brazilian deals.
A quick-fire series of announcements was headlined by the news prolific Al Qadsiah winger Bismark, 26, had agreed terms. The peroxide-haired attacker struck 10 times in 29 Saudi Professional League matches last term as he battled, in vain, against relegation.
He is joined at Saqr bin Mohammad al Qassimi Stadium by Boavista centre-back Robson, who impressed in 2018/19 when returning Bani Yas swept to sixth. Atletico Mineiro playmaker Dodo, 24, will also look to impress in the wake of a solid loan spell at Fortaleza that contained five goals in 53 league run-outs.
The east-coast outfit claimed the First Division League’s title last season, earning a top-flight berth for the first time since 2008/09 when they were known as Al Khaleej. Paulo Comelli has subsequently been drafted in, with the experienced ex-Emirates Club and Dibba Al Fujairah tactician leaning heavily on his compatriots in the transfer market.
Veteran Iraqi coach Abdulwhab Abdulqader made way for the 59-year-old.
Bismark and Robson are travelling to tie-up their moves, while Dodo’s has already gone through.
Towering Ukrainian centre forward Miro Slavov, 28, and well-travelled Brazilian playmaker Rodrigo Souza, 31, will not be retained in the four-player foreign quota. Both players played key roles in earning promotion.
Khor Fakkan have also been busy in the domestic market. Additions include Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club forward Rashed Hassan and Bani Yas midfielder Ahmed Saleh Haboush.
Few clubs across Asia last term boasted a greater disparity than Al Nasr between the awe-inspiring venue they called home and the sorry side that floundered in it.
Not even the flood of goals from ex-Manchester City striker Alvaro Negredo could hide a litany of sins which witnessed the Blue Wave crash into an unseemly eighth spot in the 2018/19 Arabian Gulf League. A lowest finish since 2009/10, incongruously, came at the same time they introduced a new architectural wonder to Dubai’s skyline.
The sublime upgrade for January 2019’s Asian Cup transformed their dilapidated arena into the Middle East’s version of Bayern Munich’s iconic Allianz Arena. Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette and the rest of Arsenal’s travelling party provided apt opponents in March’s official opening.
A grand home then, but one without a requisite star name to regularly grace it.
This is where celebrated UAE playmaker Omar Abdulrahman and his tumultuous summer come into the picture. Rare opportunity knocks for an emboldened Nasr to nab a refined footballer, truly befitting of their grandiose home.
As games of brinkmanship go, this week’s reputed squeeze attempt by Amoory’s camp on exasperated employers Al Hilal will not go down as a classic.
Amid claim and counter-claim from both sides, the only tangible fact is that the Emirates’ best player from a ‘Golden Generation’ is presently set to, for the second-successive pre-season, become a free agent next month.
Hilal’s Saudi Professional League rivals Al Ahli Jeddah are reported to have prepared an alluring Dh40 million deal. Closer to home, competition for former side Al Ain is expected to arrive from Al Jazira and Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club.
Nasr have, to date, been conspicuous by their absence within Arabian football circles.
No matter the venom in Hilal’s weekend statement that alleged mendacious behaviour, eventual rapprochement cannot be ruled out. Such is the pull of the 2016 AFC Player of the Year’s boyhood team.
This does not mean, however, that the Blue Wave are incapable of offering an enticing package.
Dubai is in desperate need of a sporting icon it can call its own. Forget the constant flood of illustrious visitors, from Roger Federer to Anthony Joshua and beyond, few other truly global cities are without one in permanent residence.
Amoory’s pull in the Arabian Gulf saw “Amoory matlab ya Bin Nafil” (Amoory new contract from Hilal president Fahad bin Nafil) become the number one trending topic on Saudi Arabian Twitter on Monday.
Transport the fervour to Dubai and the Al Maktoum will be lifted. This vibe could help lift an entire division.
AGL organisers, the Pro League Committee, have put concerted work into raising falling attendances and waning interest. Amoory’s presence in Dubai would be a welcome boon.
Amoory’s appeal for Nasr is obvious. It is less so when this scenario is flipped.
But there may also be legitimate doubts that cause hesitancy from the region’s biggest hitters and AFC Champions League participants in securing his signature.
Only one goal and one assist in five SPL games were notched by Amoory, prior to October’s devastating anterior cruciate ligament tear.
Full fitness from the latest in a long line of serious knee problems was also only confirmed late last week. From there, shenanigans began with Hilal.
Nasr appear to have recruited sensibly in this summer transfer window.
Colo-Colo’s Esteban Pavez helped anchor Chile’s midfield at the 2019 Copa America. Portuguese free agent Toze struck nine goals and three assists from attacking midfield for Portugal’s Vitoria Guimaraes, plus winger Brandley Kuwas reached double digits for both at the Eredivisie’s Heracles Almelo.
Amoory would turn a solid recruitment drive into a sensational one. He’d also make the Al Maktoum a sporting landmark, rather than just a resplendent example of landmark design.
Al Jazira have commenced their preparations for the upcoming season after departing for the Netherlands on their summer training camp on Saturday morning.
The club flew from Abu Dhabi International Airport to Amsterdam, from where they will travel to Wageningen to set up camp until July 31. They will then travel to Oosterbeek before concluding their camp on August 9.
It is the second consecutive year that Jazira will tour the Netherlands and the camp is expected to play an important part for the team to build on their fitness and work on tactical strategies ahead of the start of the new Arabian Gulf League season.
Fares Jumaa, Sebastien Siani, Saif Khalfan and new signing Sultan Al Ghaferi were among the first-team players that travelled to Europe. The prolific Brazilian striker Keno, who was signed on a loan from the Egyptian club Pyramids FC, will join the team directly at the camp.
Eight first-team players including club captain Ali Khaseif, prolific striker Ali Mabkhout and exciting playmaker Khalfan Mubarak will join the team on July 22 after wrapping up their international duty with the UAE national team.
Five academy players are also travelling with the first team players who will make up the 27-man squad in the Netherlands.
The players will be aiming to step up their fitness after undertaking medical tests back in the UAE capital following the summer break and return to pre-season.
The summer camp will provide another opportunity for new head coach Jurgen Streppel to assess his new players and work on tactics with the club set to play a number of friendlies.
The Pride of Abu Dhabi will play friendly matches during the three-week camp, which will end on August 10 before flying back to Abu Dhabi.
Jazira kick off their 2019/20 season in August when they face promoted Khorfakkan in the Arabian Gulf Cup on August 22. The Pride of Abu Dhabi will then open their AGL campaign against Al Dhafra on September 19.