Al Jazira look to have pulled off sensational swoop for former Al Ain hero Omar Abdulrahman

Matt Jones 8/08/2019
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Omar Abdulrahman left Al Ain for Al Hilal in 2018.

Al Jazira appear to have pulled off a major transfer coup after former Al Ain talisman Omar Abdulrahman was in pictured in their 2019/20 home jersey.

‘Amoory’ – without a club after leaving Saudi Arabia powerhouses Al Hilal last month – was pictured in the new Jazira shirt on Twitter late on Wednesday night, along with namesake Amer Abdulrahman.

If true, the Pride of Abu Dhabi will have significantly bolstered their forward options for the new season under new coach Jurgen Streppel with the acquisition of two renowned UAE internationals.

It would also pair the two most recognised and talented stars of UAE football together – with Abdulrahman joining feared striker Ali Mabkhout at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium.

Abdulrahman, 27, established himself as the poster boy of UAE football during a decade playing for Al Ain’s first team. He also appeared on the radar globally after shining for the UAE at the 2012 Olympic Games in the UK, after which he impressed during a trial at Manchester City – only for a move to break down because of work-permit issues.

Ligue 1’s Nice became the latest in a long line of sides to fail to make him the first Emirati to permanently join one of the west’s major competitions in the summer of 2017. La Liga’s Leganes and Ligue 1’s Lyon were linked 12 months ago.

He was named Asian Footballer of the Year in 2016 although his time with the Boss soured towards the end and he shockingly defected last summer, returning to boyhood club Hilal – he was born in Riyadh to Yemeni parents.

But a serious knee injury suffered last October curtailed the cultured playmaker’s debut campaign at the Crescent and ruined his chances of playing for the UAE at the 2019 Asian Cup on home soil.

Rumours of a departure from Hilal were rife this summer with talk he would return to the AGL with the Garden City side, or even Al Nasr.

But Al Ain manager Ivan Leko labelled rumours that he advised the club against re-signing their former star as “fake news” last week.

The Blue Wave, meanwhile, had distanced themselves from reports.

Amoory’s stock as a footballer is low, but his reputation remains high. And if his signing is to be confirmed by Jazira, it will send shockwaves throughout the AGL and add excitement to 2019/20’s title race. Reigning champions Sharjah were deserving winners but runners-up Shabab Al Ahli Dubai and third, fourth and fifth-placed Al Ain and Jazira were separated by just eight points.

The two Abdulrahmans will join Morocco forward Mourad Batna and Sultan Al Ghaferi through the doors at the Abu Dhabi giants – both arriving from cross-city rivals Al Wahda, although the Clarets are disputing the legitimacy of the Batna transfer.

Brazilian attacker Keno has also arrived from Pyramids FC while compatriot Leonardo has joined Chinese Super League side Tianjin Tianhai.

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Trouble brewing as Abu Dhabi giants Al Wahda and Al Jazira collide over Mourad Batna transfer

Matt Jones 4/08/2019
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Batna pictured with Jazira CEO Ayed Mabkhout.

Abu Dhabi giants Al Wahda and Al Jazira appear to be on a collision course with the UAE Football Association over Moroccan playmaker Mourad Batna – who was officially unveiled as a Jazira player on Saturday, only for Wahda to claim he is still under contract with them.

The Pride of Abu Dhabi issued a press release on Saturday morning announcing the arrival of Batna, 29, on a free transfer. He spent two seasons across the UAE capital at Al Nahyan Stadium after his summer 2017 arrival – notching an excellent seven goals and eight assists in 20 Arabian Gulf League games during his debut 2017/18 campaign with the Clarets.

He scored eight goals last season despite only featuring 11 times as he and the club fell out. He featured in just four games in 2019.

Jazira’s unveiling of the talented forward provoked an angry response from Wahda on Saturday evening, with the club labelling the deal “invalid” and claiming Batna had extended his contract for another season at Al Nahyan.

Through a series of announcements on their Twitter feed, Wahda said: “Al Jazira Club announced on its official account with the signing of Moroccan player Mourad Batna.

“The Board of Directors of Al Wahda Football Club confirms that Mourad Batna is linked to a contract with Al Wahda Club and extends for the 2019/20 season and is registered in the Emirates Football Federation and that the club still has the player’s card.

Batna on his Wahda unveiling two summers ago - the club claim he remains under contract.

Batna on his Wahda unveiling two summers ago – the club claim he remains under contract.

“Thus, the signing of the player to Al Jazira Club is considered invalid and is contrary to the rules of the UAE Football Federation, where the player may not transfer to any club except with the consent of Al Wahda Club.

“The Board of Directors confirms that it will resort to the judiciary and the law to preserve its rights after the announcement of the contract with the player without agreement with Al Jazira and follow the proper procedures for the mechanism of negotiation and contracting.”

Batna was quoted in the statement released by Jazira as saying: “I am excited for my new journey with Al Jazira and am eager to join my new team-mates at the pre-season camp in Netherlands.

“I look forward to working with Jurgen Streppel and his coaching staff and playing good football with my new colleagues.

“Al Jazira has some of the best local and international players in their team with a world-class infrastructure and one of the best football academies in the region.

“I look forward to being part of the club’s commitment to compete at the highest level in all the games they play and I promise the fans to bring them joy through our performances.”

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Sebastian Tagliabue admits he still dreams of representing the UAE one day

Matt Jones 1/08/2019
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Sebastian Tagliabue admits he still dreams of representing the UAE at national team level after original hopes faded earlier this year.

Al Wahda striker Tagliabue refers to the Abu Dhabi club as “his second home in football” and he had been earmarked as a potential pick for the Whites’ Asian Cup squad in January, having become eligible for naturalisation last summer.

The 34-year-old Argentine was rumoured to be under consideration for a spot in then UAE coach Alberto Zaccheroni’s squad for the tournament – held in the Emirates – along with Al Wasl’s Brazilian duo Fabio De Lima and Caio Canedo (now of Al Ain).

The trio had become available under FIFA rules, with Tagliabue a constant resident since he was purchased from Saudi Arabia’s Al Shabab Riyadh in June 2013.

The Buenos Aires native overtook Asamoah Gyan as the Arabian Gulf League’s all-time top-scoring foreign player last year and was left upset at not being able to earn a UAE call-up – although he holds out hope it is still possible as he goes into his seventh AGL season.

“Yes, of course,” he told Sport360 when asked if he would accept an invitation were he to be approached by the UAE Football Association again.

The UAE reached the semi-finals of January's Asian Cup on home soil.

The UAE reached the semi-finals of January’s Asian Cup on home soil.

“How do I say no to the national team of this country? They’ve given me everything. My youngest son is eight-years-old and 90 per cent of his life he has lived here.

“Of course if, I can help now or in six months I have the opportunity in my football career. I will take it and try to help the country.”

The last thing Tagliabue was told was, “everything is ready” for him to earn a cap for his adopted nation, but after he’d completed a medical and filled in all the relevant paperwork, he never heard another word from anyone in authority, which he said was the most disappointing aspect.

“The last words I knew was that ‘everything is ready, we have all the papers, we will give them to the president’,” said the man referred to affectionately by Clarets fans as ‘Tigali’.

“After that nobody called me again, the Asian Cup was gone and nobody spoke with me again. But believe me it was something I wanted to do.

“I don’t know what happened with the other players – Caio and De Lima – but what happened with me is they wanted to give me the passport to play the Asian Cup. It was especially for the Asian Cup.

“I don’t know what happened with this and the guy who spoke with me. I already did the blood test, the check-up, I signed some papers and what I knew [is that] they gave all the papers to the president of the country and after that I didn’t know anything.

Sebastian Tagliabue had been hoping to link up with Wahda colleague Ismail Matar for the Asian Cup.

Sebastian Tagliabue had been hoping to link up with Wahda colleague Ismail Matar for the Asian Cup.

“I think the president said ‘no’, I don’t know. Maybe they didn’t give (the papers), maybe something happened in the middle and they decided no, and the president didn’t say anything or the paper didn’t reach him.”

The UAE, chastised for playing dull, uninspiring football under former AC Milan coach Zaccheroni, ended up reaching the semi-finals of the tournament, where they lost to eventual champions Qatar.

Tagliabue added: “In the beginning I never expect that. For that I was not angry when I didn’t get it. My (reason for being) upset was, if you come to me and offer me something, come to me after and say ‘sorry, it’s not possible’ and I will say ‘thank you so much for thinking of me’. For even giving me the chance to dream of that.

“From the beginning I knew maybe 70/80 per cent it was not possible. Some people work like this, but I don’t accept that. I’m not like this. But it’s OK. It was an amazing time and a nice dream.”

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