AGL team guides: Al Nasr – Dubai club on cusp of joining UAE elite

Ahead of the start to the 2015/16 Arabian Gulf League season, The National will preview the fortunes for each of the UAE's 14 top-flight clubs.

Renan Garcia of Al Nasr celebrates during the club’s President’s Cup final victory over Al Ahli in June. Warren Little / Getty Images / June 3, 2015
Powered by automated translation

Ahead of the start to the 2015/16 Arabian Gulf League season, The National will preview the fortunes for each of the UAE's 14 top-flight clubs. Here, Paul Oberjuerge looks at last season's cup double winners, Al Nasr.


The nation’s oldest club are coming off their best season in more than two decades. They ended a 25-year domestic-trophy drought by capturing the Arabian Gulf Cup in January, then topped that by beating Al Ahli in a shoot-out to win the President’s Cup in June, as Nasr fans wept in joy at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.

The Dubai side added a fifth-place finish in the league, one slot short of a chance to qualifying for group play in the Asian Champions League.

The accomplishments were a tribute to the organisational skills of Ivan Jovanovic, the Serbian coach who in 2012 led Apoel of Cyprus to the final eight of the Uefa Champions League.

Nasr fans will be trusting to the instincts of Jovanovic and club officials after the club changed out three of their four expatriates. The tempestuous forward Ibrahima Toure, the league’s second-leading scorer, was exiled and forward Pablo Hernandez and midfielder Brett Holman, the team’s spiritual leader, were released.

The club believe they have improved themselves by recruiting Nilmar, a former Brazil international striker, and two men who have proven themselves in the league, the former Al Ahli No 10 Luis Jimenez and the former Al Jazira winger Jonathan Pitroipa.

The club retained two important Emirati players, the compact midfielder Tariq Ahmed, now the club captain, and the goalkeeper Ahmed Shambieh, who has at times been invited to join the national team.

Foreign quartet

Renan Garcia: The Brazilian defender, 29, appeared in every league match for Nasr last season and was a steady presence in the middle of the pitch. He had a rough time in the Super Cup, but Jovanovic will expect better going forward.

Luis Jimenez: He scored 13 goals in his debut season with Ahli, but fell off to six last season. He seems to be playing deeper with Nasr, and will take free kicks around the goal.

Nilmar: He has the credentials – Villarreal, Lyon, Internacional in his native Brazil – and goals at every stop, including eight in 23 matches for his national side. He is not a target man, as Toure and Luca Toni were for Nasr, and he may need time to find himself.

Jonathan Pitroipa: The speedy winger had good moments with Jazira, and he seemed comfortable in the Super Cup match last week. He is best at driving up the right flank and crossing to more dependable scorers.

Key Emirati players

That Tariq Ahmed has not been a member of Mahdi Ali’s national team is a bit of a mystery; the bustling midfielder wins the ball and distributes it well. Ahmed Shambieh is a solid goalkeeper, and midfielder Jamaal Maroof showed he knows how to finish when he scored in the Super Cup. Ahmed Ibrahim and Esam Dhahi have been usually dependable fixtures in the back four.


Ivan Jovanovic, the white-haired, 53-year-old Serb, played 20 years as a midfielder in Serbia and Greece, and has coached mostly in Greece and Cyprus before Nasr brought him in two years ago. He will need to show his side can score without the target man Toure presented, as well as integrate the new men into the side.

The National verdict

Is this a team on the rise, or was 2014/15 a fluke season for a club without the spending power of opponents like Al Ahli, Al Ain and Al Jazira? Much depends on Nilmar, a proven scorer who seemed lost in the Super Cup. A successful season for Nasr will end with a top-four finish; if things go a little sidewise, they could drift down in the table.

Follow us on Twitter @NatSportUAE