Marcel Keizer targets new blood to boost Al Jazira ahead of new season

Dutch manager wants 'one or two' more foreign players to strengthen side with Arabian Gulf Cup kicking-off campaign on September 3

Marcel Keizer’s two stints as Jazira manager are separated by almost a full year at Sporting in Portugal. Courtesy Al Jazira FC
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Al Jazira manager Marcel Keizer is hopeful of strengthening his squad to help the club achieve their objectives for the upcoming season.

The Abu Dhabi side, two-time UAE champions, are currently working towards the beginning of the new campaign, which kicks off with the Arabian Gulf Cup on September 3. The Arabian Gulf League starts the following week.

Jazira finished the curtailed 2019/20 season in third place, behind leaders Shabab Al Ahli Dubai and Al Ain.

They go into the fresh campaign with ambitions of challenging at the top of the table once more, and should benefit from Keizer having a pre-season with his players – despite the restrictions imposed during the pandemic.

In his second spell at the club, the Dutchman rejoined last October.

At present, Jazira have two foreign slots available, with Serbian defender Milos Kosanovic and South African midfielder Thulani Serero currently registered.

Keizer says the club are targeting at least one winger and that, although Jazira are not close to adding anyone at the moment, there remains plenty of time in the transfer window.

Asked about his objectives for the upcoming season, Keizer said: “My confidence is big in the Emirati players. So normally when you have four foreigners extra then we have a good team. Now we have two, so this makes it a little difficult to say which position we have to take.

“Hopefully, we can get one or two more foreigners and then we are OK to play for the top three places. But without the two, I’m not sure yet.

“We are very lucky we have two spots open. Of course, we want some players but let’s see how it continues because the window is until October, so we have some time.”

Keizer’s two stints with Jazira are separated by almost a full year at Sporting in Portugal. He previously managed the UAE club for six months in 2018 before moving to Lisbon.

The former Ajax manager, 51, believes this season will once more be tightly contested, with Sharjah still considered champions following the decision to annul the 2019/20 campaign because of the coronavirus crisis. Only 19 of its 26 rounds were completed.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , March 14  – 2020 :-  Ahmed Barman (no 13 purple) of Al Ain and Omar Abdulrahman  (no 21 white) of Al Jazira in action during the Arabian Gulf League football match between Al Jazira v Al Ain held at Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. (Pawan Singh / The National) For Sports. Story by John
AL Jazria playmaker Omar Abdulrahman, right, found his best form last season after recovering from a serious knee injury. Pawan Singh / The National

“It’s really close, that’s why the league’s interesting,” Keizer said. “Sharjah, Al Ain, [Shabab] Al Ahli, Al Wahda, Al Nasr, ourselves, then some teams – Al Dhafra for example were in the [President’s] Cup final and also sixth.

“I can’t say now which position we are, also because we didn’t play friendly games, so we have to see after four or five games in the league and then we can really say we can do a lot this year. Let’s wait and see.”

On star playmaker Omar Abdulrahman’s return to form last season after another serious knee injury resulted in a year on the sidelines, Keizer said: “I think last year sometimes people around him or the press judged him too fast.

"When I came here in October-November they already judged him like a normal player and he was coming back from a third ACL injury. So this takes time.

“And in the end he was very good. [People] can expect the same level from him like he had the last months of last season with Jazira. And he will improve also on this.

"He has a lot of potential, of course, same as Ali [Mabkhout] and Khalfan [Mubarak], who are important players in the creativity of the team.”