DUBAI // Baniyas have completed their quartet of foreign players for the season, a day before the end of the transfer window, with the arrival of Marcelo Leite Pereira, the Brazilian winger.
Pereira arrived in Abu Dhabi on Saturday and, after passing his medical, signed a one-year deal later in the evening. The 26-year-old Pereira, who has played for the Atletico Madrid and Getafe reserve teams, comes from Greece club Skoda Xanthi, who lost to the Belgian side Standard Liege in the third round of Europa Cup qualifying last month.
Pererira is the oldest of Baniyas’ foreign players this season. Carlos Munoz, the Chilean striker, is 24, Luis Farina, the Argentine midfielder, is 22 while Abdulsalam Al Mukhaini, the Omani defender, is 25. Last season, three of their four foreign players were in their 30s – Mohamed Aboutrika (34), Christian Wilhelmsson (33) and Nick Carle (31).
Baniyas, who finished fourth in the league last season and could earn a ticket to next year’s AFC Champions League, have been looking for young foreign players this season to complement their young Emirati players.
“We have been looking young players, who have the motivation to make something for their future,” Mubarak Al Mehrum, the club’s chairman, had said earlier in the season. “Baniyas needed some new blood, some new energy in the foreign section. That is why we have got players who are in the same age group as our Emirati players.”
Baniyas, who are unbeaten in three matches this season with victories over Al Ain (3-1 in the League Cup) and Ajman (4-3 in the league) also have bigger aspirations for this season and are hoping to win their first domestic silverware since their 1991/92 President’s Cup triumph. Last season, they were the winners of the Gulf Club Champions Cup.
“We would not have made these changes if we were not sure we are going to be challenging for the titles,” Al Mehrum said. “Our target is to fight for all three domestic championships this year. We want Baniyas to be one of the best clubs in the region, not just UAE.”
Dubai, meanwhile, have confirmed Syrian international Jehad Al Hussain as their Asian player for the season. The Al Awir club had signed the 31-year-old attacking midfielder during the off-season, but the deal ran into rough weather after his former employers, Saudi club Najran, demanded Dubai pay the US$900,000 (Dh3.3 million) penalty clause for the player’s release.
Najran were not ready for any compromises on the penalty clause and had refused to send Al Hussain’s transfer card till the full amount was paid. With Dubai refusing to pay that amount, the Syrian was taken off the club’s roster, but the two clubs have finally agreed a deal.
“It’s all sorted, Jehad Al Hussain is our Asian player,” a club spokesman said.
Dubai have also made another change, replacing Brazilian striker Andre Alves Malian striker Dramane Traore, who scored on his debut in the 3-2 win at Emirates on Friday. Alves appeared in two League Cup and a league match for Dubai, but failed to impress coach Martin Rueda.