After Al Ahli's signing of Fabio Cannavaro made headlines around the world yesterday, the move was praised as a major boost for the domestic game which will have a knock-on effect for all the UAE's clubs. Fahad Ali, the former captain of the UAE and Al Ain, believes Cannavaro's arrival will trigger more high-profile signings, with Al Jazira and Al Ain, two of the richest clubs in the country, yet to decide on their foreign players for the 2010/11 season.
"It is definitely a very ambitious move by Ahli and will greatly benefit the country's football in many ways," said Ali, speaking yesterday from the national team's camp in Germany where he is one of the technical assistants to Srecko Katanec, the coach. "Players like the Italy captain will draw the crowds as well, which has been on the decline at the stadiums. It will bring international attention to the UAE game and will encourage more high profile players to think of a possible move."
Josef Hickersberger, the former Al Wahda coach who led them to the title last season, says Cannavaro will raise the profile of the domestic competition. "He is coming straight from the World Cup and that would mean he is in peak form and a ready-made product for any top team," said the Austrian. "The Emirati players can learn from the kind of experience he brings to the UAE game. I am not sure of the deal, but it must be a good one for him to take this decision. Still it is worth every bit of a deal and these kind of players raise the profile of the local competition. In my opinion, his signing is a good move, whatever the financial deal."
Cannavaro, who will captain Italy at the World Cup, is expected to arrive in Dubai soon after the tournament, which finishes on July 11, in time for the domestic season, which kicks off in August. Ahli have broken a trend of recent times. With only three foreign players permitted in each Pro League team, strikers have been the signing of choice for the division's 12 teams. Ali said: "Ahli has broken a tradition by signing a high-profile defender. Personally I think this is a very good move, because matches are not only won with strikers, but they are also won by good defence, like how Jose Mourinho, the former Inter Milan manager, was successful in the European Champions League against Barcelona."
Ali, who played as a central defender, feels such signings will have a good impact on Emirati players, particularly the strikers. "We have had a severe problem in the national team because we didn't have good strikers," added Ali. "All those positions in every club were occupied by foreign players and how could one expect to improve your own players. I thought this was a long-felt need and finally Ahli has got this right." Ahli signed Pinga, the Brazilian midfielder from Wahda on a two-year contract, last month, but have yet to appoint a new manager, after being left with Noureldine al Obaidi, the Tunisian assistant as caretaker coach when Henk ten Cate resigned after one month in charge, earlier in the season. @Email:email@example.com
George Weah The Liberian striker, above, who played for AC Milan, Monaco and Chelsea, spent two prolific years at Al Jazira between 2001 and 2003. In 1995, Weah became the first African to be named World Player of the Year and European Player of the Year (Eusebio in 1962 was born in Mozambique but categorised as Portuguese). The three-time African Player of the Year later ran for election as president of Liberia. Phillip Cocu The former Holland captain is now the assistant manager of his national team. Having won 101 international caps for his country and played in two World Cups, in 1998 and 2006, the midfielder left PSV Eindhoven and spent the 2007-08 season with Al Jazira . Abedi Pele The three-time African Footballer of the Year spent two seasons with Al Ain from 1998 to 2000. He helped Ghana to the 1982 African Cup of Nations and was part of the great Marseille team, along with the likes of Alen Boksic, Marcel Desailly and Rudi Voeller. Ali Daei The Iranian legend nicknamed Shahriar (the King) played for Al Shabab in 2002-2003. He won 149 international caps for his country and is the world's all-time leading international scorer with 109. Daei also played in the Bundesliga for Bayern Munich and Hertha Berlin and is now the coach of Persepolis, the popular Iranian club.