x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

A team by team guide into the Arabian Gulf League clubs as they get ready to do battle for the 2013/14 season.

Al Ain won the Pro League title in back-to-back seasons. Satish Kumar / The National
Al Ain won the Pro League title in back-to-back seasons. Satish Kumar / The National


Manager: Abdulwahab Abdulqadir (Iraq)

Last season: 10th

Foreign contingent:

Boris Kabi – Prolific Ivory Coast striker continues to find the net, and as captain, leads by example.

Simon Feindouno – Slick Ghanaian is neat and tidy in midfield, often arriving late in the penalty area to nick a goal.

Driss Fettouhi – Gifted Moroccan wideman is one of league’s most skilful technicians and is constantly carving chances for strikers

Asian player – TBC

Key Emirati player:

Khalaf Ismail – The robust centre-back is a commanding presence at the back, experienced and vital when defending set pieces.

2013/14 prospects: The addition of Feindouno brings extra zip to midfield, while Kabi will always get goals. Abdulqadir’s men are thinking big, but a top-eight place seems their limit.

Al Ahli

Manager: Cosmin Olaroiu (Romania)

Last season: 2nd

Foreign contingent:

Grafite – Prolific Brazilian striker, and captain of club, who shows no sign of slowing down at age 34.

Hugo Viana – Incisive Portuguese midfielder joins from Braga, and will dictate side’s tempo.

Ciel – Unpredictable Brazilian forward made the shock move from rivals Al Shabab, but can unlock defences with tricks or killer passes.

Luis Jimenez – Chilean playmaker now qualifies as Asian representative, giving Ahli an even stronger attack.

Key Emirati player:

Walid Abbas – The UAE defender was part of the Ciel deal, and is as good in attack as he is at the back.

2013/14 prospects: With Cosmin Olaroiu at the helm, Ahli constitute Al Ain’s most genuine title rivals.

Al Ain

Manager: Jorge Fossati (Uruguay)

Last season: 1st

Foreign contingent:

Asamoah Gyan – The Ghana captain has twice finished as the top scorer in the league, and last season topping the charts with a record 31 goals.

Mirel Radoi – The Romanian retained for the third season pulls the strings from the midfield.

Michel Bastos – The club’s only new signing, the Brazilian is set to play the pivotal role as the wing attack.

Alex Brosque – The Australian played a pivotal role as the second striker and returns from an abdomen surgery.

Key Emirati player:

Omar Abdulrahman – the winner of the Emirati Player of the Year last season, easily fits into that role again.

2013/14 prospects: They will still be front-runners despite losing manager Cosmin Olaroiu to Al Ahli.

Al Dhafra

Manager: Abdullah Misfir (UAE)

Last season: 8th

Foreign contingent:

Makhete Diop – The Senegalese has topped the club’s scoring charts in the last two seasons.

Kamel Chafni – The Moroccan wing attack has already made his mark by scoring twice in their 3-1 win over Al Ahli.

Emanuel Clottey – Ghanaian striker is on loan from Esperance Tunis.

Bilal Najjarine – The Lebanese centre-back followed coach Abdullah Misfir from Fujairah.

Key Emirati player:

Abdulsalam Jumaa – The veteran midfielder postponed retirement plans for a second season to remain as the club captain.

2012/13 prospects: They have made an impressive start by winning both their League Cup games against Al Ahli and Al Wasl, and are capable of creating a few surprises.


Manager: Jorge da Silva (Uruguay)

Last season: 4th

Foreign contingent:

Carlos Munoz – The Chilean forward missed the first game for his new club because of a delay in his registration.

Luis Farina – Impressed in his first game, a 3-1 win over Al Ain, last week.

Christian Wilhelmsson – The Swiss international is the only foreign player retained by the club.

Abdulsalam Al Mukhaini – The powerfully built centre from Oman is set to marshal the defence when he returns from national team duty.

Key Emirati player:

Amer Abdulrahman – Has the potential to change a game with his nimble footwork and technically high skills.

2013/14 prospects: They have the potential to be spring a surprise and challenge for the league.


Manager: Martin Rueda (Switzerland)

Last season: 11th

Foreign contingent:

Bruno Correa – Deemed excess to needs at Al Nasr, the Brazilian striker will be keen to prove his worth.

Andre Alves – Top scorer in Hungary in 2010/11, the Brazilian arrives after a 20-goal season at Cyprus club Omonia

Gilles Yapi Yapo – Playing in Europe since 2001, the Ivory Coast defensive midfielder has plenty of international appearance.

Key Emirati player:

Hassan Abdulrahman – Dubai’s No 10, the playmaker will again be crucial to his team’s prospects

2012/13 prospects: Another season in mid-table is the most likely scenario for Rueda’s men.

Al Jazira

Manager: Luis Milla (Spain)

Last season: 3rd.

Foreign contingent:

Ricardo Oliveira — Five years at the club, the Brazilian forward is still the most influential player.

Nelson Valdez — Much is expected from the Paraguayan international, but has not impressed in his two games so far.

Abdelaziz Barrada — The Moroccan midfielder returns after his nation’s 1-1 draw against Ivory Coast in the 2014 World Cup Qualifier last Saturday.

Shin Hyung-min — The South Korean centre-back is entering second season of his two-year contract.

Key Emirati player: Ali Kasheif has been a tower of strength between the posts and now established as the No1 in the country.

2013/14 prospects: Have bought well and have a strong UAE backbone. If Milla can impose his style on the team they will challenge for the title.

Al Nasr

Manager: Ivan Jovanovic (Serbia)

Last season: 6th

Foreign contingent:

Ibrahima Toure: A prolific goalscorer, the Senegalese could challenge Asamoah Gyan and Grafite for the golden boot

Eder Luis: Winner of the Portuguese league and cup double with Benfica in 2010, the Brazilian will be a strong presence behind Toure

Brett Holman: After a disappointing season at Aston Villa, the Australian international is looking for regular starts

Leonardo Lima: The only foreigner to keep his place, the Brazilian will be looking to build on his reputation

Key Emirati player

Habib Fardan: The UAE international has been a standout performer for his team and should continue in that vein

2013/14 prospects: Nasr did not meet the expectations of their fans last season, but with strong additions like Toure and Holman, they should be challenging for a place in the top-four.

Al Shaab

Manager: Marius Sumudica (Romania)

Last season: 12th

Foreign contingent:

Michael N’dri: The only surviving member of last season’s foreign quartet, the French striker will be keen to repay the management’s faith

Billy Celeski: A member of the growing Aussie brigade in the AGL, Celeski’s experience will be crucial in the midfield

Thiago Quirino: Signing for Swedish club Djurgardens in 2006, he was unveiled as their “golden boy”; things have not gone to plan since, but this could be his golden opportunity

Julius Wobay: The Sierra Leone international arrives on a one-year loan from Azerbaijan club Neftchi Baku

Key Emirati player:

Mohammed Malallah – Once rated as one of the most promising strikers in the land, the 29-year-old will be hoping to make up for the lost years

2013/14 prospects: Sumudica helped them win the tense battle to avoid relegation last season and this season, he will surely be aiming for a higher position on the table.

Al Shabab

Manager: Marcos Paqueta (Brazil)

Last season: 5th

Foreign contingent:

Adeilson: A direct replacement for compatriot Ciel, the 27-year-old Brazilian has big boots to fill

Carlos Villanueva: Missing last season through injury, the Chilean playmaker returns to the fold after a successful six months on loan at Universidad Catolica.

Edgar Bruno: The lanky Brazilian striker had an up-and-down season and will be looking to improve on that

Azizbek Haydarov: Mr Dependable of the team, the Uzbek midfielder will again play a crucial role

Key Emirati player

Esam Dhahi: Sold to Al Ahli but back on loan, the central defender will shoulder a big responsibility with the departure of Walid Abbas

2013/14 prospects: Losing key players like Ciel and Walid Abbas will surely hurt their prospects, but Shabab have shown themselves to be a team that does not depend on individual brilliance.

Al Wahda

Manager: Karel Jarolim (Czech Republic).

Last season: 7th.

Foreign contingent:

Sebastian Tagliabue — The Argentine has been among the goals in the friendlies and in his first official game.

Damian Diaz — Is set to strike a formidable partnership with compatriot Tagliabue in the attack.

Marco Estrada — The Chile international is recovering from a groin injury and ruled out for three weeks.

Hussain Fadel — The Kuwaiti centre back replaced the Australian Dino Djulbic last week.

Key Emirati player:

Ismail Matar, the captain, maintains the thrust, skills, creativity and goal-scoring abilities still to be the most influential player in the club.

2013/14 prospects: Injuries have ben a thorn in Wahda’s side for two seasons. Fully fit and they have a squad to match any team’s, on paper.

Al Wasl

Manager: Laurent Banide (France)

Last season: 9th

Foreign contingent:

Andre Senghor Giant Senegalese forward has signed from Baniyas, and will be a potent goal threat

Mariano Donda - Influential Argentine midfielder who was a huge loss last season because of injury

Abdel Fattah Boukhris – Rangy Moroccan defender is a late addition, replacing the injured Kaio

Milan Susak – Reliable Australian defender who knows Gulf football having spent six months on loan in Iran

Key Emirati player:

Rashid Essa – The UAE winger adds pace and drive to the midfield, but he needs to stay free from injury

2013/14 prospects: The Dubai club have urged caution this season, as they place emphasis on building a side for the future. A top-eight place is the most realistic target.


Manager: Paulo Bonamigo (Brazil)

Last season: Runners-up in Division One

Foreign contingent:

Ze Carlos – An AFC Champions League winner (Jeonbuk, 2006), the Brazilian announced himself with two goals in the 3-0 win at Al Jazira on Sunday; boasts a prolific goal-scoring record.

Mauricio Ramos – Winner of the Copa da Brasil with Palmeiras in 2012, the 28-year-old centre-back looks a tough man to get past.

Fellype Gabriel – A member of the Brazil team at the 2005 World Youth Championships, the Botafogo midfielder could cause plenty of woes for opposing defences.

Kim Jung-woo – Played a pivotal role in South Korea’s progress to the last 16 at the 2010 World Cup; will play an equally important role for Bonamigo’s team.

Key Emirati player:

Ahmed Khamis – One of the stars at Al Ahli not so long back, the winger is a livewire and a constant threat

2012/13 prospects: Sharjah seem to have learned their lessons from a dismal campaign in the 2011-12 Pro League. Notorious for their revolving-door policy, they are investing in stability now with Paulo Bonamigo at the helm of a promising team. Don’t be surprised if Sharjah finish in the top half.


Manager: Eid Baroot (UAE)

Last season: Gained promotion from First Division as champions.

Foreign contingent:

Luiz Henrique – Inventive Brazilian, signed from Al Shabab, will play off the strikers and is the team’s creative fulcrum.

Jair Powerful – Brazilian striker joins on loan from the Japanese second division, but is hardly prolific.

German Herrera – Argentine frontman struggled for goals last season, so he has a lot to prove this term.

Rodrigo Souza Silva – Brazilian midfielder now qualifies as an Asian player and should marshal space in front of defence.

Key Emirati player:

Abdulla Mousa – The vastly experienced goalkeeper is a shrewd signing from Al Nasr, bringing some much-needed stability to the back line.

2013/14 prospects: A first season back in the UAE top flight is always difficult, but in Eid Baroot the club have a coach who knows how to get the best from limited resources. Henrique’s acquisition was inspired, yet question marks remain regarding their Emirati contingent. It is that group’s performance that will determine whether Emirates stay up or not.