Republic of Ireland record goal scorer Robbie Keane ensured his predatory instincts remained honed on Monday as he trained with Arabian Gulf League champions Al Ahli.
Keane, 36, is currently without a club after his five-year stint at Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy ended in November.
He is highly unlikely to link-up permanently with the Red Knights because only an Asian spot remains open for a free agent in their four-player foreign quota.
Ghana striker Asamoah Gyan, Brazil playmaker Everton Ribeiro and Senegal No9 Makhete Diop were all registered after the transfer window closed last month.
This means Keane – who struck 68 times in 146 internationals – is probably staying in shape in Dubai ahead of an imminent move elsewhere. The Championship’s Preston North End have been linked.
النجم الايرلندي روبي كين يشارك في تدريبات الفرسان صباح اليوم pic.twitter.com/0S9P4z2yxM— النـــادي الاهــــلي (@AlAhliClub) February 6, 2017
It’s not just the biting Shamal wind which has blown through Al Ain this week.
New coach Zoran Mamic has been drafted in – poached, as ex-Saudi Arabian employers Al Nassr have argued – to bring order to an unravelling 2016/17 Arabian Gulf League campaign.
The first steps of this mission were promising as Brazilian winger Caio, rampaging UAE centre-back Ismail Ahmed and Omar Abdulrahman’s effortless penalty earned a 3-0 win against Al Nasr on a freezing night at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium. This triumph sent the Boss back up to second and gave a platform for Zlatko Dalic’s replacement to build from.
“It was a difficult start for us, Al Nasr had some chances,” Mamic said. “But after that, we took control.
“We presented, I think, good football. After this game, of course you know better than me, that there is a lot of potential and quality within this team.”
Mamic patrolled the touchline with a stoic assuredness which stood in contrast to the paroxysms of opposite number Dan Petrescu. The Romanian’s anguish was exacerbated by Morocco playmaker Abdulaziz Barrada’s unforgivable second-minute miss, as a painful fourth-successive match without victory further stunted the Wanderley-less Blue Wave’s prior improvement.
Petrescu said: “We played very well in the first half, maybe the best 45 minutes of my time as coach here.
“The second half was the worst of my time here as a coach.”
It was clear from kick-off that Mamic is not set to rip up the blueprint inherited from his fellow Croatian. The 4-2-3-1 formation remained, with 2016 AFC Player of the Year Omar Abdulrahman given full licence to probe at will.
Yet the script should have been flipped almost from kick-off, only for Barrada to drag wide when played clean through.
It was all downhill from there for the visitors. UAE reserve goalkeeper Ahmed Shambieh soon spilled to the grateful Caio for his 10th goal in 16 AGL games.
After the crossbar was struck at both ends by Barrada and Saudi Arabia predator Nasser Al Shamrani as the first half wound down, Ahmed deftly flicked home a third goal of the season and ‘Amoory’ punished centre-back Khalifa Mubarak’s brain-dead handball.
New boy Joan Oumari is looking to the past and present for inspiration as he attempts to make his mark in the ironclad Al Nasr defence.
Oumari, 28, was snapped up from Turkey’s Sivasspor this month. This move has seen him join a much-improved side under coach Dan Petrescu, who gained an exceptional reputation at right-back for Romania and Chelsea during his celebrated playing days.
Speaking after making his full debut during last weekend’s disappointing 2-2 draw at home to Al Dhafra in the Arabian Gulf League, the Lebanon centre-back picked out his new boss and a Real Madrid icon when asked about role models.
“Our coach played in Chelsea and yes, he’s a very good coach,” said Germany-born Oumari, who has scored two goals in 13 international run-outs.
“He trusts us, he trusts me and he speaks to me a lot. I hope I can give him something back.
“For me, the best [current] defender is from Real Madrid – Sergio Ramos. This is because he has this coolness and he has everything.
“He sees everything and is a lea-der. That is why I say he is the best.”
The result against the Western Knights represented an aberration since Petrescu took the helm of an ailing outfit during late October. Only four goals had been conceded in the preceding eight top-flight matches, while a clean sheet was registered as Al Ain were shutout in the President’s Cup quarter-finals.
“I think we did not play so good [against Dhafra] as I know about the team, and me also I don’t play so good,” Oumari said. “It was my first official game from the beginning and yes, I must learn the league but I hope with the time I can come inside this team and help this team.
“It is difficult to come in the team when there are good defenders.
“There are pressures. I come from Turkey – here, they play another football.
“I must come inside the team and I hope I can quickly.
“I must work for myself. I hope I can give this back to the team, Al Nasr club, the coach and everybody.
“The way I played against Dhafra was not good. I know me and I know I can play better than this.”
Next up for the sixth-placed Blue Wave is the daunting visit of champions Al Ahli on Friday. Oumari urged his team-mates to consign the Dhafra result to history.
He said: “We forget this game, as this was not so good. We must train.
“We look forward and will give our best.”