DUBAI // Al Ahli have confirmed the signing of midfielder Luis Jimenez, the Chile international and Seria A veteran, as their third foreigner for the coming UAE professional league season, meaning the end of Fabio Cannavaro's time at the club.
Ibrahim Fakri, media officer for the Dubai club, said today that an official announcement of the Jimenez signing would be made soon. Jimenez, 27, joins the Brazilian strikers Grafite and Jakson "JaJa" Coelho to fill Ahli's quota of three non-Asian foreigners in the side.
Ahli have been coy about the ramifications for Cannavaro, the 2006 Fifa Player of the Year, and also for Pinga, the Brazilian midfielder, but simple arithmetic indicates neither player can be in the squad for the 2011/12 season.
As recently as Sunday, Ahli's chief executive, Ahmed Khalifa, had said the club had no plans to release Cannavaro.
In an interview posted on the league's website only two weeks ago, Cannavaro insisted he was committed to Ahli in the second season of his two-year contract, saying "I am still a player and I want to wear the club's logo until the end of my contract. Besides, I have not yet decided when I will retire".
Ahli may have decided the retirement date for the former Italy captain, who will be 38 in September, unless he can find employment elsewhere, notably being linked to the English Premier League.
Cannavaro was reported in Italian media to have earned as much as Dh22.5 million in his one season with Ahli and presumably will receive a settlement from the club for being cut loose before the expiration of his contract.
The club finished a disappointing eighth, and the Irish coach David O'Leary, who had called for more help in the attack, was dismissed 15 matches into the 22-game season.
Jimenez has played for several Italian Serie A clubs, including Fiorentina, Inter Milan, Lazio and Parma. He also had a loan spell in the Premier League with West Ham.
Last season he scored nine goals in 23 matches for Cesena.
The player is currently with the Chilean national team in Argentina, preparing for July's Copa America.