‘I need players’: Al Ain’s Dalic wants reinforcements, starting with Al Shabab right-back

'We must do something' Al Ain manager Zlatko Dalic says of the remaining transfer window, looking to add much-needed depth with his side active on many fronts, John McAuley reports.
Al Shabab defender Manei Mohammed has made 77 league appearances with the club. Satish Kumar / The National
Al Shabab defender Manei Mohammed has made 77 league appearances with the club. Satish Kumar / The National

AL AIN // Al Ain have identified Al Shabab right-back Manei Mohammed as one of the players they would like to sign before the close of the transfer window – with manager Zlatko Dalic saying he is “afraid” of the club’s threadbare squad.

The 12-time UAE champions are seeking a number of reinforcements in the coming weeks, as international, domestic and continental commitments have already begun to take their toll.

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On Sunday, Al Ain opened their 2016/17 Arabian Gulf League campaign with a stuttering victory at home to Baniyas, five days after they booked their place in the semi-finals of the Asian Champions League.

Goalkeeper Khalid Essa was stretchered off the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium pitch at full-time and later limped through the mixed zone with his right hamstring bandaged. The club await scans to discover the extent of the problem.

Al Ain have already lost first-choice right-back Mohammed Ahmed for up to six months following a knee injury sustained earlier this month during the UAE’s 2018 World Cup qualifier against Australia. Ahmed had surgery this weekend.

The Garden City side have therefore turned attention to Mohammed, the Shabab full-back whose stock has risen thanks to consistent performances the past few seasons. Mohammed, 27, made his UAE national team debut at the King’s Cup in June. He has 77 league appearances with Shabab.

Last summer, Mohammed was tipped for a move to Al Ahli, with the defender appealing to the UAE Football Association to have his contract, which runs until next year, rescinded. Shabab also received offers from Al Wahda and Al Wasl.

Al Ain must conclude any business before the transfer deadline in mid-October, but for the moment it is understood they are interested in augmenting only their local contingent.

Speaking after Sunday’s Baniyas victory, Dalic said: “Al Ain is the only team who play all competitions: Champions League, President’s Cup, Arabian Gulf Cup, our league and national team games. It’s very, very difficult for me and my team because we won’t have enough players for all competitions.

“We must do something, we must bring two or three new players who will benefit my team, because we cannot be competitive in all competitions like this. But of course we’ll fight, we’ll do the best on our side. But I’m afraid.

“We stayed without Mohammed Ahmed with the national team, now Khalid Essa was also with the national team and is now injured. I’m afraid that if someone else gets injured who will play? We don’t have 20 players, we have 13 or 14 – it’s not enough for all competitions.

“Because everyone pressures us: Champions League, league, Gulf Cup, President’s Cup, national team. We cannot play like this. I must be honest with you, I’m afraid how it’ll be because I need players. Sometimes I need to rest somebody, but I must always push 11 players. It won’t be good for us.”

Asked about the seriousness of Essa’s injury, Dalic replied: “I will see after. We need to check him, but I’m afraid because he felt pain in his hamstring. I don’t know what will happen, but if we lose Khalid it’s a big issue for us. I don’t know how we’ll continue.” ​

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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Published: September 19, 2016 04:00 AM

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