Al Ain were last night on the verge of selling star striker and former Pro League golden boot winner Jose Sand to Mexican outfit Club Tijuana for an undisclosed fee.
The National can reveal the Argentine, signed two years ago from FC Lanus for a reported fee of US10m (Dh37m), was allowed to leave as part of the club's efforts to completely rebuild their team after a deeply disappointing season last time around.
His transfer fee is believed to be nowhere near what Al Ain paid out for him in 2009. Club Tijuana were promoted to Mexican's football's top tier in May.
New Al Ain coach Aurelian Cosmin, who met his players for the first time on Tuesday, is now on the look-out for a foreign goalscorer to play alongside the other close season signings, Romanian midfielder Mirel Radoi and Ignacio Scocco from Argentina.
This centre forward would become the club's third foreign signing of the pre-season and there is still a place available for one Asian player the squad.
Any new player will do well to fill the boots of Sand, one of UAE football's most effective recent imports, who was loaned out to Spanish side Deportivo La Coruna last season after falling out with the then coach Alexandre Gallo.
In his first season in the UAE, he scored 33 goals in all competitions including 24 from 20 Pro League games, an average of 1.2 a match, a tally which earned him the golden boot and adulation of the supporters.
The decision in January to loan out Sand, who has been capped twice by Argentina, to Deportivo bemused the club's followers, especially as the team was near the bottom of the table. The most successful team in UAE history, with nine title wins, were spared relegation thanks in part to a 4-1 win over champions Al Jazira in the second last game of the season.
Sand became the first player in Argentina football history since Al Wasl coach Diego Maradona in 1980 to finish top-scorer in successive First Division campaigns, a feat he achieved with FC Lanus between 2007-2009.