Transfer news: Blackburn midfielder headed for Baniyas

Abu Dhabi-based Arabian Gulf League club sign Palermo loanee Mauro Formica, reports John McAuley.

Argentine Mauro Formica is nicknamed 'The Cat'. Felice Calabro / AP Photo
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Baniyas have finalised their foreign contingent for the inaugural season of the Arabian Gulf League with the signing of Mauro Formica from English Championship club Blackburn Rovers.

The Argentine midfielder was in Abu Dhabi on Sunday to complete his medical before agreeing to the deal, and will join up with his new teammates when pre-season training begins on July 15. He will be introduced to the media at a news conference later this week.

Formica becomes the second expatriate recruited by Baniyas this summer, following the acquisition of Abdulsalam Al Mukhaini, the Oman international defender, who replaces the Australian Nick Carle as the club’s Asian player. Senegalese striker Andre Senghor and Swedish winger Christian Wilhelmsson constitute their other two overseas players.

Having begun his career with Newell’s Old Boys in Argentina, Formica moved to Blackburn in January 2011 yet struggled with fitness and appeared only for the reserve team.

In 2011/12, the Rosario-born playmaker featured 34 times in the English top flight, although he could manage just four goals –one arrived on his Premier League debut – as Blackburn slipped into England’s second tier.

A knee injury disrupted his first half of last season, resulting in Formica entering a six-month loan arrangement with Palermo, the Italian Serie A side. There, he made eight appearances, scoring a solitary goal.

Palermo were believed to have held first refusal on signing Formica permanently, however instead the player returned to Ewood Park.

His arrival at Baniyas continues the club’s promise to build for the long-term, given that he is 25 years old.

Although he has yet to experience UAE football, Formica’s transition will no doubt be assisted by the presence at Baniyas Stadium of another South American, coach Jorge da Silva.

The Uruguayan was confirmed as Salem Al Orafi successor last month, and will officially commence his new role on July 12.

Roadblock in Al Ahli-Al Ain talks

Elsewhere, Al Ahli's chances of recruiting Mohammed Ahmed from Al Ain appear to have reduced significantly following reports the UAE champions will release the full-back only if they can take in return Ahmed Khalil and Ismail Al Hammadi.

The duo represent two of Ahli’s most coveted Emiratis, and Abdullah Al Naboodah, chairman of the Dubai club, said last month he would not countenance the transfer of Khalil to a local rival.

Al Wasl have already registered their interest in the national team striker.

Ahli would be just as reluctant to let Al Hammadi go, especially after the winger’s fine finish to the 2012/13 campaign.

Anyway, no movement is expected until the President’s Cup winners appoint a new manager, although the issue should be resolved by early next week.

Ahli are believed to be close to completing a deal to bring to the Rashid Stadium Cosmin Olaroiu, the Al Ain coach, however the club have denied he forms their principal target to succeed Quique Sanchez Flores.

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