AL AIN // Take a cursory glance through the Al Ain teamsheet and you may have missed it.
In the section containing the substitutes, nestled between Dawoud Sulaiman and Mohammed Abdulrahman, two stalwarts of the UAE champions, was a relatively alien name: Yassine El Ghanassy.
The Belgian-Moroccan arrived in the Garden City only on Thursday, having completed a six-month loan transfer from Gent, a club in Belgium’s top flight. One training session later, he found his way onto the bench for Al Ain’s stadium-opening clash with Al Dhafra.
By the beginning of the second half, he had graduated to a role on the pitch, and the tricky forward did enough on the left flank to suggest he could be an astute acquisition.
“We don’t have this sort of player with his skill, who can open the pitch with a run or a pass,” said Quique Sanchez Flores, the Al Ain coach. “It’s important to have these types of players.
“He still needs to adapt to the team, as we haven’t had time to put him into the system, but he had some important chances. So we have to wait to make an analysis of this player.”
El Ghanassy, 23, was joined at Al Ain this week by Bakary Sare, the Belgian holding midfielder.
His arrival would seem to spell the end of Mirel Radoi’s time at the club, although Sanchez Flores is adamant the Romanian will be available for selection until the season’s end.
“The committee is signing players for the future, and so we accept those,” Sanchez Flores said. “It’s important to separate this year from next.
“I don’t expect Radoi to leave. He’s a first-team player and it’s difficult to find a substitute for him. He fights a lot for the team. I support him a lot.”