Baniyas complete deal for Australia’s Mark Milligan; deny overtures with Al Ahly’s Walid Soliman

John McAuley reports on Baniyas' activity in the Arabian Gulf League, including arriving at an official signing for Mark Milligan and a denial they were ever in talks for Al Ahly Cairo player Walid Soliman.

New Baniyas signing and Australia international Mark Milligan shown during a match against South Africa in Sydney last year. Saeed Khan / AFP / May 26, 2014
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Baniyas have finally completed the signing of Mark Milligan from Melbourne Victory, the Australian A-League side.

The Abu Dhabi club, who tried to recruit the midfielder twice before, began negotiations with Milligan last month after reportedly activating the AUS$1 million (Dh2.875m) release clause in his previous contract. He has signed a two-year deal.

Milligan's arrival is expected to spark a busy summer period for Baniyas as they attempt to improve on last season's disappointing eighth-place finish in the Arabian Gulf League. The club have already released Denis Stracqualursi and Imad Khalili, while the future of Angel Dealbert remains uncertain. For the moment, Joan Verdu, the playmaker who scored 10 goals during his debut campaign in 2014/15, looks set to stay.

Baniyas have made a bold approach for Robinho, the high-profile Brazilian currently representing his country at the Copa America. Talks have taken place, with a decision to come presumably once the tournament in Chile concludes.

Milligan, though, also represents a relative coup for Baniyas. The former Sydney FC and Newcastle Jets player, 29, captained Melbourne Victory to a win in last month’s A-League Grand Final, a game in which he was voted man of the match.

A defensive midfielder who began his career as a defender, he has experience of playing club football in Asia having previously featured for Japan’s JEF United and Shanghai Shenhua, the Chinese Super League club.

Milligan is a member of the Australian national team and was integral to their successful Asian Cup campaign in January. He played in the semi-final against the UAE, and then the entire final against South Korea, which the Australians won 2-1 after extra-time. Last week, Milligan helped the Socceroos open their 2018 World Cup qualifying account with a 2-1 victory in Kyrgyzstan.

Baniyas, meanwhile, have denied they were ever involved in negotiations for Walid Soliman, the midfielder with Egypt’s Al Ahly. In an official statement released late Monday, the club said they will seek to prosecute whoever forged a letter claiming Baniyas would offer $1.8m (Dh6.6m) for Soliman.

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