Ricardo Oliveira: a team man that Al Jazira fans love to love

The striker's contributions to the Abu Dhabi club have not gone unnoticed this season.

Al Jazira’s Ricardo Oliveira has struck 28 goals in all UAE competitions for the club this season, five more than Asamoah Gyan of Pro League champions Al Ain. AFP
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Asamoah Gyan may have made most of the headlines this season with his hand in helping Al Ain win the title, but opinion is divided on whether the on-loan Sunderland striker is the best forward in the Pro League.

At Al Jazira, fans, teammates and officials argue that Ricardo Oliveira's influence and performances make him the league's best.

"There are several good players in the Pro League but Ricardo's contribution to Jazira remains unrivalled," Osama Ahmed, a Jazira fan, said.

Oliveira's teammate Abdulla Qasim said: "As a player, he is 100 per cent a team man."

The Brazilian's importance to his team's success cannot be played down.

Oliveira has outscored Gyan this season in all UAE competitions - 28 goals to 23 - although the Ghanaian leads the way in the Pro League.

Add six goals in the Asian Champions League group stages - where he was named player of the round - and Oliveira has doubled his tally from last year (16) when Jazira won the double of the league and the President's Cup, a trophy they retained this season.

Despite his individual achievements, the former AC Milan star lives up to his team-man image.

"It is my job. I want to do my best in every game," he said.

"I hope I can continue to contribute to my team and help them to more success."

With foreign players coming and going with frequency in the UAE, Oliveira is a relative veteran of the Pro League having signed for the Abu Dhabi club for Dh62.5million on a five-year contract in the summer of 2009, a price tag that means he is still the league's most expensive player.

He arrived with a huge reputation, he became a cult hero at Real Betis in Spain and a big-money move to AC Milan, the Italian giants, was hindered by the stress of his sister being kidnapped in Brazil. She was rescued after five months.

However, his first season in Abu Dhabi was a disappointing one and Jazira loaned him back to Sao Paulo in his native Brazil in August 2010.

"He didn't start well but his contributions in the last two years have been really outstanding," said Ahmed.

Oliveira returned to Jazira during the midseason transfer window in February 2011, sharper, fitter and hungrier. Since then, he has been a major contributor to the success of the team.

His attitude was never a problem

"He is always with a smile," Mohammed Salem Al Enazi, the Jazira team manager, said. "He is very easy to deal with because he is very disciplined and knows what the club expects from him.

"He has tremendous respect from everyone at the club. He is has excellent leadership qualities, both on and off the field. He makes everyone's work easy by being attentive and with his work ethics. It is a pleasure to work with him."

Oliveira has become a role model to several young Emirati players in the club. Qasim, the defender, says Oliveira has offered advice on the finer points of the game, including the mental approach.

"He has shared all his experience with me," said Qasim. "He has not only helped me improve my game but have learnt a great deal on dealing with off-field matters as a professional player."

Bare, his Brazilian teammate and fellow striker, adds to the image of Oliveira as a team player. "He is always there at the right place at the right time to set me up."

Despite his reputation in Europe and his achievements in the UAE, Oliveira exudes modesty. "I am looking ahead in helping my club to achieve their objectives and I wish I can help them every way I can. At the end, success of a player is measured by what the team has achieved."

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& Amith Passela