Nasser Al Shamrani targets UAE and Asian titles after joining Al Ain on loan from Al Hilal

The 2014 Asian player of the year joins UAE side, less than 24 hours after Al Ain decided to call off a deal for Yannick Boli after Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala reportedly requested more money. John McAuley reports.

Nasser Al Shamrani signed to play for Al Ain on Wednesday. Courtesy Al Ain FC
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Nasser Al Shamrani says he is “honoured” to play for one of Asia’s biggest clubs after signing for Al Ain on loan from Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal.

The Saudi Arabia forward, Asian Player of the Year in 2014, agreed on Wednesday to a six-month temporary contract with the UAE side, less than 24 hours after Al Ain decided to call off a deal for Ivorian Yannick Boli.

The French-born striker had been presented to the media on Monday night having signed from Anzhi Makhachkala for two and a half years, but the transfer was rendered void because the Russian club reportedly requested more money.

Al Shamrani, 33, said he is determined to help Al Ain in their quest for silverware this year. The Garden City club, the UAE’s only Asian champions, are currently second in the Arabian Gulf League, trailing Al Jazira by A point after 14 rounds. Asian Champions League runners-up in November, they begin their 2017 campaign next month.

“I will do my best to achieve the objectives of the club and for the happiness” of the Al Ain fans, said Al Shamrani, who also thanked Hilal for allowing the loan move. “When a footballer’s name is associated with Al Ain club, his aspirations should have no limits.

“Any player on the continent wishes to wear this team’s jersey, the kit of the leader who was close to winning last year’s Asian Champions League. My ambitions with Al Ain are to win local championships and the Asian title in 2017. I look forward to contributing to achieving strong results with my teammates.”

Al Shamrani is well known in the Gulf region following three years with Hilal. However, after helping the club finish runners-up in the 2014 Champions League, he has struggled with fitness and form. In the past two seasons, he made only 11 Saudi Pro League starts.

At Al Ain, Al Shamrani replaces Douglas, with the Brazilian striker allowed to leave the club despite signing 12 months ago. Douglas has six goals in this season’s Arabian Gulf League, while in November he missed what proved to be a decisive penalty in the Champions League final second leg against South Korea’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. Al Ain were eventually beaten 3-2 on aggregate.

Manager Zlatko Dalic said he hopes Al Shamrani can integrate quickly into the team, and that he may even be available for Thursday’s league trip to Emirates club.

“Certainly, it is a very short period of time, but it will depend on the readiness of the player to take part in the game,” Dalic said. “We need a striker because we missed the final touch in a number of important matches, and we did not win in the last game because of the lack of a truly effective attack. So we must have a striker who can turn the opportunities we create into goals.”

Meanwhile, board member Mohammed Obaid Hammad added: “We are pleased to welcome one of the best scorers in the Saudi football league, the outstanding striker Nasser Al Shamrani.

“We are confident in his ability to make a difference and contribute to the team to achieve our desired objectives at local and continental levels during the season.”

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