Ailton Almeida looks back on ‘strange’ and successful debut season with Al Jazira

Brazilian forward Ailton Almeida has said it has been a “strange” but successful season at Al Jazira after joining the Arabian Gulf League champions on the final day of last year’s summer transfer window.

Ailton Almeida has played a key role in Al Jazira's first UAE top-flight league title in six years. Nezar Balout / AFP
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Brazilian forward Ailton Almeida has said it has been a “strange” but successful season at Al Jazira after joining the Arabian Gulf League champions on the final day of last year’s summer transfer window.

Deadline day

Almeida had a year left on his two-year contract with Saudi Arabian club Al Hilal when a second round of talks was held on the final day of the 2016 summer transfer window. But within a matter of hours, he had signed to join the Abu Dhabi club.

“Jazira had more than a month to sign a new player, but they couldn’t find the right player until the last day of the transfer window,” Almeida said after Wednesday’s 1-0 league win over Al Nasr.

‘Everything changed’

The 32-year-old striker said it all happened so quickly. “It has been a strange season for me,” he said. “I was preparing for my second season at Hilal. Then suddenly everything changed on the final day of the AGL’s transfer market. I had the chance to move to Jazira.”

Playing out of position

If the sudden move was not enough, Almeida was asked by manager Henk ten Cate to play out of position on the wing. To his credit, not only did he accept his new role he also did his bit to help Jazira win only their second league title last week.

“When I arrived at Jazira, I was made to play in a position that I never played before,” he said. “My original position was No 9 striker, but when I came here, the coach wanted me to play on the outside.”

‘A big achievement’

It is a responsibility the Brazilian said he enjoyed.

“This was a big achievement for me. It was a little bit strange at the beginning because I always stayed close to the area looking for chances, but when I played on the sides, it was like using more speed and feeding the ball inside the area,” he said.

‘Very, very happy’

Almeida was philosophical about his first season at Jazira. “Everything that happened had a reason,” he said. “I came here and won the league title. Obviously I’m feeling great and very, very proud of the team, and very, very happy to be the champions in my first season at the club.”

apassela@thenational.ae

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