Everton Ribeiro says the opportunity to force his way back into the Brazil squad in time for next summer’s World Cup is the primary motive for leaving Al Ahli.
The playmaker, who joined the club from Cruzeiro in February 2015, is expected to return to his homeland to join Flamengo, with a $7 million (Dh25.7m) deal almost finalised.
Ribeiro, 28, denied on Tuesday that the transfer to the five-time Brazilian champions was complete, but it seems certain Monday’s Asian Champions League defeat to Al Ahli Jeddah marked his final appearance for the Dubai club. Ahli were beaten 3-1 in the last-16 second leg to exit the tournament 4-2 on aggregate.
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Asked afterwards if the match at the Rashid Stadium was his last for Ahli, Ribeiro said: “I don’t know until now, but we will now see what will happen. I have an offer from Flamengo and so I will check it.
“It’s a good chance for me, a big team in Brazil and, if it gets done, I will be happy because I will have a chance to come back to my country and have a chance to play again for the national team.”
Even given the uncertainty at Ahli — they are in the process of merging with Al Shabab and Dubai club — Ribeiro's impending move represents a huge loss for the club. The attacking midfielder, capped 10 times by Brazil but not since June 2015, has been an integral part of Cosmin Olaroiu's side during his 27 months there, winning five trophies, including the 2015/16 Arabian Gulf League title.
Ribeiro helped Ahli capture the Arabian Gulf Cup this season, while he also played a key role in their run to the 2015 Champions League final, where they lost 1-0 on aggregate to China’s Guangzhou Evergrande.
“It has been a very good experience for me here,” Ribeiro said. “If it’s finished, I hope all the best for Al Ahli because they make me happy and I made many friends here. Always I support Al Ahli now.”
Asked about his favourite moment from his time with Ahli, Ribeiro said: “Always when we become champions we are very happy, and here we took five trophies together. The fans have always supported me and said good things about me. When I went onto the pitch, I played for everybody.”
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