2016/17 AGL transfers: Diaky set for Al Jazira return, Al Ain add another Abdulrahman to ranks

With the summer transfer window in full swing, John McAuley picks out some of the Arabian Gulf League’s highlights thus far.
Japan's Kashima Antlers midfielder Lucas Fernandes Caio (L) vies for the ball with South Korea's FC Seoul forward Jung Jo-Gook(R) during their AFC Champions League Group Stage football match in Seoul on March 4, 2015. (AFP)
Japan's Kashima Antlers midfielder Lucas Fernandes Caio (L) vies for the ball with South Korea's FC Seoul forward Jung Jo-Gook(R) during their AFC Champions League Group Stage football match in Seoul on March 4, 2015. (AFP)

With the summer transfer window in full swing, we take a look at some of the Arabian Gulf League’s highlights thus far.

FRESH IMPORTS

• Caio (Al Ain) Signed from Japan’s Kashima Antlers, the 22-year-old Brazil-born winger has been recruited to add guile to the Al Ain attack.

Impressed since moving to the J-League in 2014, Caio was named the division’s rookie of the year following a fine debut season. Operates on the left, but regularly cuts in on his right foot and carries a goal threat, scoring 26 times in 99 appearances for Kashima. Must hit the ground running, though, with the Asian Champions League quarter-finals providing his first test.

• Abdelaziz Barrada (Al Nasr) If his original stint in the UAE is anything to go by, Al Nasr have secured a top-class addition. During his only season with Al Jazira, in 2013/14, the Moroccan excelled, scoring 10 times in 22 league matches, alongside four goals in eight Champions League outings.

An accomplished playmaker, he stuttered in France with Marseille, but at 27 should be just entering his prime. As good at conjuring chances for teammates as he is taking them, Barrada offers a considerable boost to Nasr’s domestic and continental ambitions.

• Gelmin Rivas (Sharjah) A surprise acquisition in that Sharjah have spent the past few seasons battling against relegation, while Rivas has attracted many admirers following a lethal campaign in Saudi Arabia with Al Ittihad.

The Brazilian plundered 19 goals in 25 league matches for Ittihad, a quick and powerful striker who at age 27 still has his best days ahead. Signed to help Sharjah, the five-time UAE champions, recapture former glories, although will need an improved support cast to make sure last season’s 11th-place finish does not repeat.

• Tiago Alves (Al Wahda) Already boasting last season’s top goalscorer in the Arabian Gulf League in Sebastian Tagliabue, Al Wahda have added yet another prolific foreign forward to their ranks. Brazilian Alves, who has signed a three-year deal from parent club Penapolense, arrives fresh from a potent loan spell in South Korea, where the 23-year-old forward scored 13 goals in 18 league appearances for Seongnam FC, joint-best in the K League Classic.

Together with Tagliabue, Wahda appear to have the firepower to improve on their third-place finish in the 2015/16 AGL.

• Ruud Boymans (Al Shabab) The first acquisition of the Fred Ruttens’s era at Al Shabab, the Dutchman raided his homeland for some much-needed attacking thrust. Boymans, 27, is untested outside the Netherlands, but scored 27 goals in 36 matches to help Willem II win the Dutch second tier in 2013/14.

Injuries have been a concern and blighted Boymans’s time at Utrecht, where he made 28 league appearances in two seasons. However, he still managed to score 19 goals. Replaces the woeful Juninho Potiguar as Shabab look to rekindle their challenge for major honours.

• Zac Anderson (Emirates) The Arabian Gulf League’s latest Australian, Anderson has signed to shore up Emirates’ previously leaky defence. The former Australia Under 20s and U23 representative joins from Sydney FC after making only nine appearances for the A-League side.

A towering centre-back, Anderson, 25, is seeking to reignite his career in the UAE having consulted compatriots Alex Brosque, Brett Holman and Mark Milligan before agreeing to the transfer. Anderson is a law student, but the jury remains out on whether he is enough to guarantee Emirates better last season’s relegation scrap.

*****

DOMESTIC TRANSFERS:

• Amer Abdulrahman (Al Ain) It took a while, but Al Ain finally sealed the signing of one of the national team’s standout stars. Abdulrahman, 27, has long been regarded as a midfielder of considerable talent, although a chequered injury record and doubts regarding his temperament somewhat stunted his progression through seven top-flight seasons at Baniyas.

Live up to his billing now, and Al Ain have attracted a player of undoubted pedigree, adept with the ball and already boasting a real understanding with Omar Abdulrahman in particular. The switch should reinvigorate all concerned.

• Wanderley (Al Nasr) Recognising an obvious problem area in the squad, Al Nasr eventually pushed through a deal for prolific Sharjah striker Wanderley. The 27-year-old Brazilian has been superb for two seasons in the UAE, scoring 32 goals in 51 league matches for a team constantly struggling at the wrong end of the table.

With Nasr in the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time, and aiming to improve on last year’s fifth-place finish in the AGL, they needed a significant upgrade on Nilmar, essentially someone to lead the line. Wanderley represents that.

• Fellipe Bastos (Baniyas) Having lost midfield linchpin Amer Abdulrahman to Al Ain, Baniyas were shrewd enough to then take Bastos from the Garden City club. He may have been deemed surplus to requirements there, but the Brazilian initially shone to prove he can still be a success.

Scored five times in the league following his summer move from Vasco da Gama, although looked fatigued as the season wore on. Possesses a fierce shot and always eager to get on the ball, Bastos, 26, should work well alongside Mark Milligan. Good business.

• Fawaz Awana (Al Nasr) Continuing a summer of smart investment, Al Nasr’s ability to convince Awana to join initially shocked. The 27-year-old midfielder was expected to swap Baniyas for Al Ain, given his obvious ability and recent rise to the UAE national team set-up.

Awana was only one of the Baniyas players to emerge from last season with reputation enhanced, but he now has stern competition for a place at the base of the Nasr midfield. That aside, he certainly adds real quality to their squad. Could prove crucial in Nasr’s four-pronged trophy challenge.

• Ahmed Dida (Baniyas) One of the UAE’s most underrated goalkeepers, Dida’s transfer to Baniyas should help him finally gain the recognition his talent warrants. Unfortunate to have Majed Naser ahead of him at Al Ahli, although the former Al Wasl No 1 performed well throughout the club’s run to last year’s Champions League final.

However, he made only 14 Arabian Gulf League appearances in two-and-a-half seasons at Ahli. Baniyas have struggled recently for a reliable goalkeeper and Dida definitely offers that. Expect a return to the national-team conversation.

• Ibrahim Diaky (Al Jazira) A veritable veteran, Diaky will represent an astute acquisition by Al Jazira once his move from Al Ain is formally announced. The Ivorian-born midfielder may be 34, but he performed admirably last season, while he returns to a club where he spent eight largely successful years.

Crucially, Diaky provides a wealth of experience to a youthful Jazira, who will undoubtedly benefit from his know-how. In 215 appearances between 2005 and 2013, he scored 52 times, was captain and helped the club to a league-and-cup double in 2011.

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Published: July 25, 2016 04:00 AM

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