Al AIN // Stung by accusations from the former Arsenal prodigy Jeremie Aliadiere of shabby treatment and "unprofessionalism", the Pro League side Al Ain fired back yesterday at a player they described as damaged goods.
"We prefer not to discuss these matters publicly but now he has pushed us and we feel betrayed," Faouzi Bediri, the football administration director at the club, said.
Aliadiere, 27, a French forward who signed with Arsenal at age 16, last week told the Daily Mail he had turned down Al Ain "as I was disappointed at the way I was treated". He added: "I feel they have been very unprofessional in their conduct and I have not signed a contract, as stated on their website."
Bediri, however, described a no-expenses-spared recruitment process that foundered only when Aliadiere failed a club medical.
He said Al Ain bought business-class airline tickets from London for Aliadiere and his agent, put them up at the Hilton Hotel, gave Aliadiere two gift bags that included a watch valued at Dh11,000 for his wife and agreed to a US$550,000 (Dh2 million) contract for six months - on the condition that he passed a check-up.
Bediri said an examination by Dr Mustafa Hamid Bashir revealed "a tear of the left posterior cruciate [ligament] with some laxity". Bediri also described a January report from Dr Phil Horner of the Premier League side Blackburn Rovers that revealed problems with Aliadiere's left patellar tendon.
Bediri said that Thomas Brookes, Aliadiere's agent, countered by offering to have his client sign for half the money in the original contract, with the other half to be paid if the player's knee held up.
Bediri said the club declined "because one wrong movement and his knee could collapse. I would be fired if I signed such a player".
Amal Mir, the marketing and corporate communications director at the club, said Al Ain were eager to build a campaign around a player who had played for four Premier League sides. Added Bediri: "We really wanted him to play for us, but we needed him to play in three days, not in four or five months."
Club officials were upset when the comments were made, and more so when they were translated into Arabic and widely circulated.
Brookes, the head of football for the England-based International Sports Management, said yesterday he was not familiar with the statements attributed to the player and could not comment on them.
Bediri said the club may now be more circumspect in pursuing players from the Premier League. "I don't know if they're spoiled. We know the players are not Einstein or Nobel Prize winners, but there is common sense. Maybe money makes them crazy."
Aliadiere has been out of contract since June, when Middlesbrough released him. He had played 78 games and scored 11 goals for the Teesside club in three seasons, two of them in the Premier League.
Al Ain announced on their website on February 13 that Aliadiere had been signed. Mir said the story should have included the proviso "if he passes his medical".
Aliadiere did no lasting damage to the club, Bediri said. "In the football world people know Al Ain as the best club in the country."