Al Ain‘s new forward Caio Canedo admits it hasn’t been hard settling in to his new surroundings at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium – after all he’s played there enough times over the last five years.
The diminutive Brazilian swapped the Cheetahs for the Boss this summer – leaving Al Wasl but not the Arabian Gulf League as he signed for Al Ain in a lucrative €5.3 million deal.
It was a real coup for the Boss, who struggled to a fourth-placed finish last year, capitulating in 2019 after peaking with an appearance in the FIFA Club World Cup final in December, where they lost 4-1 to European heavyweights Real Madrid.
But Canedo, 29, heads an impressive summer recruitment drive in the Garden City. The Rio de Janeiro native has been joined by Algerian winger Abderrahmane Meziane, Togo forward Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba and Emirati midfielders Mohamed Jamal and Mohammed Helal.
And Canedo admits he already feels part of the family. “I have a sincere sense of being at home,” said the Brazilian, who speaks perfect English with an American accent having grown up in Massachusetts.
“I spent five years in the country with Al Wasl and experienced a large number of foreigners.
“By my nature, I like to make friends with players and prepare myself socially and I have never had any difficulty in coping quickly with getting to know my team-mates, especially since I am fluent in English, which helps the foreign players a lot in coexisting.
“With the other new arrivals I have begun to learn about the style of each player and the way he plays.”
Caio has proven both a prolific scorer and creator of goals during his five years with the Cheetahs. After arriving in Dubai, on loan initially from Internacional in his homeland in 2014/15, he has rocketed in 66 goals in just 113 AGL games.
He formed a deadly duo with compatriot Fabio De Lima in that time, although their connection failed to yield any silverware. An AGL runners-up spot was achieved in 2016/17, with the same fate befalling them in the 2018 President’s Cup. Wasl’s first appearances in the AFC Champions League in a decade, meanwhile, ended in timid group stage exits both this and last year.
Few foreign players stay at one club in the Middle East as long as Caio. So fewer still will begrudge his decision to move on. And he is determined to catch up on lost time by lifting silverware with his new club.
“We are very proud of being a great club and I will work to achieve goals and we will fight together to win titles,” added Caio, who joined Internacional in 2013 following Taison’s move to Shakhtar Donetsk.
Speaking about his new Croatian coach, Ivan Leko, he added: “I admire his thinking, his style and his way of dealing with everyone, which motivates us to implement his plans accurately.
“I think the pre-season camp has been excellent. It is an important period to strengthen the relationship between team-mates.”
Al Jazira have completed the signing of Serbian defender Milos Kosanovic from Belgian Club Standard Liege.
The 29-year-old has signed a two-year contract and will join up with his new team-mates in Abu Dhabi ahead of the start of the 2019-20 season.
Kosanovic arrives at Al Jazira with plenty of experience in the Polish and Belgian leagues, and in his native Serbia. The versatile defender made his professional debut for Mladost Apatin in Serbia before moving to Cracovia Krakow in Poland. He later switched to Belgian giants Standard Liege, featuring 22 times before moving to Goztepe on loan.
His talent has seen him represent Serbia U-21 level as well as the senior national team squad.
With the acquisition of Kosanovic, it’s been a remarkable couple of weeks for Al Jazira who have strengthened their squad this summer with six new signings.
Experienced midfielder Sultan Al Ghaferi, Moroccan attacking forward Mourad Batna, UAE national team stars Omar Abdulrahman and Amer Abdulrahman as well as Brazilian forward Keno have all arrived at The Pride of Abu Dhabi and the signings have stirred yet more excitement amongst fans ahead of the start of the new season.
Ayed Mabkhout Al Hajeri, CEO and board member of Al Jazira Football Company said: “Our vision is to always strive in being successful and to make sure that Al Jazira is a leading sporting club in the UAE and across the region. The signing of Kosanovic is part of our ambitious football project and he will certainly strengthen the first-team squad as we compete in the local and regional competitions for the new upcoming season.”
Kosanovic said he is thrilled to have joined Al Jazira. He said: “I am really excited to start my new journey with Al Jazira Club and to play in the UAE.
“Al Jazira has a rich history and has a strong reputation in Europe with former Juventus star Mirko Vucinic among the super stars to have played for them. The club has also been coached by amazing managers including Jurgen Streppel, who is an excellent coach and has great knowledge of the game.”
He added: “I am proud that Al Jazira has chosen me to be part of their ambitious and wonderful football project. I pledge to the management, the fans and my new team that I will use all my skills and expertise to help the club be successful and compete strongly in all competitions next season.”
Al Wahda boss Maurice Steijn saw red and blamed the “very bad moment” when Brad Jones was not dismissed after Al Nassr knocked his side out of the 2019 AFC Champions League’s round of 16.
The Clarets had been marginal favourites to progress against the Saudi Professional League holders, courtesy of last week’s opening 1-1 draw at Riyadh’s King Fahd International Stadium. These hopes increased when right-back Mohammed Al Menhali produced a fine first-half volley on Monday at Al Nahyan Stadium to earn the aggregate lead.
A trademark header from Morocco predator Abderrazak Hamdallah and brace by Brazil playmaker Guiliano then saw ex-Benfica coach Rui Vitoria’s men charge back ahead. These efforts ensured Argentine striker Sebastian Tagiabue’s 79th-minute deflection was immaterial.
The pivotal moment for new coach Steijn, however, came just past the hour mark – with the tie set at 4-2 – when ex-Liverpool goalkeeper Jones was given only a caution for scything Tagliabue down outside the penalty box.
He said: “I saw a team who was willing to do everything to win the game and I think one very bad moment, and the moment I talk about is the moment when the goalkeeper from Al Nassr…
“For me, it is unbelievable that is not a red card because he totally didn’t go for the ball, he totally tackled – yes you can only give a red card, so it was for me unbelievable that it was yellow.
“But after that, my team created a lot of chances.”
This 3-2 reversal on the night, and 4-3 loss overall, extended Wahda’s wait to make the continental event’s last-eight into a 13th year.
Conversely, it maintained hopes of Nassr claiming their first ACL crown.
“We came from Riyadh to Abu Dhabi and our goal was clear, we only wanted to win,” skipper Omar Hawsawi told the-afc.com.
“As I said during the pre-match press conference, in difficult situations our true spirit always shines through. That was exactly what we showed today.
“Although we conceded a goal midway through the first half, we remained confident in our ability to come back into the match. As a result we continued to attack and were rewarded when we scored the goals and eventually got the valuable win.”
He added: “We dedicate this win and qualification [for the quarter-finals] to the Al Nassr fans who support us everywhere.
“We promise them that the future will be much better.”
Meanwhile, fellow Saudis Al Ittihad emerged victorious from a seven-goal thriller against Iran’s Zob Ahan.
The two-time ACL victors were made to sweat, even with a 2-1 first-leg advantage. A brace from ex-Al Jazira forward Romarinho was then pivotal in a wildly entertaining 4-3 second-leg success.
“I think the game developed like we had predicted,” said Tigers supremo Jose Luis Sierra. “They put a lot of pressure on us and attacked with a lot of energy.
“I think that we performed very well in the first half, apart from the goal we had more chances to score.
“We knew that they were very strong from set-pieces and in effect in the second half they levelled up from a set-piece. Luckily, we were able to score again and go 2-1 up.
“Then, up to our fourth goal we dominated the match. When we went 4-1 up, we lacked a little bit of intensity and they were able to get closer in the scoreboard, but in the end we are happy we are through.”