ABU DHABI // Former Arsenal midfielder Denilson has confirmed he is leaving his native Brazilian club Sao Paulo to join Arabian Gulf League side Al Wahda.
“I have accepted the offer with a heavy heart because everybody knows about my passion for Sao Paulo,” he said.
Denilson, 27, is expected to arrive in Abu Dhabi for a medical on June 27 and will complete his crossover to replace Adil Hermach, the Moroccan international midfielder.
Having started his career in Sao Paulo’s youth ranks, Denilson spent five seasons from 2006 at English Premier League club Arsenal before returning to Sao Paulo in 2011.
He captained Brazil at both Under-15 and U17 level, leading the latter to the runners-up spot in the 2005 Fifa U17 World Championship.
He was drafted into the Brazilian national side for a friendly match against Switzerland in November 2006 but did not make his debut.
Denilson’s impending arrival marks another major signing in a busy week for Al Wahda, after the club announced former Japan and Atletico Madrid manager Javier Aguirre as their new coach.
Wahda officials were not available to comment on Denilson’s arrival at the club, but the Brazilian’s move had already rumoured two weeks ago.
Denilson moved to Arsenal from Sao Paulo for £3.4 million (Dh19.8m) in August 2006 and made 153 appearances for them in all competitions.
He made his first-team debut against West Bromwich Albion in a League Cup fixture and gradually established himself during the next two years.
He made his first Premier League appearance in a 2-0 win over Wigan Athletic in November 2007.
Denilson was provided with more playing time in the top flight in the 2008/09 season and on many occasions partnered Spain international Cesc Fabregas in central midfield.
He started and played the full 90 minutes against Blackburn Rovers in a 4–0 victory for Arsenal and then continued to play as a regular for the club through December.
With Fabregas out for the last few months of 2008 because of injury, Denilson did well to fill in for the captain and was rewarded with more playing time.
He scored a third Premier League goal of the campaign against Aston Villa in a 2–2 draw in December and converted his penalty to seal a 7-6 shoot-out victory over Roma in the Uefa Champions League round-of-16 second-leg match in March.
Denilson was awarded a five-year deal for his contributions at the Emirates stadium, but a back injury and a dip in form saw him spend more time on the bench in the 2010/11 season.
He returned to Sao Paulo on loan the next year after turning down offers from Russia, Italy, Germany and other Brazilian clubs to return to his former club on a four-and-a-half-year contract until December 2017.
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