x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

A new chapter for Majed Naser begins at Al Ahli

Quique Sanchez Flores vows to help Emirati 'banish the negative aspects from his personality'.

Al Ahli coach Sanchez Flores flanked by his two new goalkeeper signings, Ali Rabea (from Ajman), left, and Majed Naser (from Al Wasl).
Al Ahli coach Sanchez Flores flanked by his two new goalkeeper signings, Ali Rabea (from Ajman), left, and Majed Naser (from Al Wasl).

DUBAI // Quique Sanchez Flores, the Al Ahli coach, has welcomed Majed Naser into the club's "family" despite an altercation between the two last season which led to a 17-match ban for the Emirati goalkeeper.

The Al Wasl goalkeeper made the surprise switch across Dubai on Monday, moving on a free transfer following an order from Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid, the Al Wasl Club president.

Naser will now play under Sanchez Flores, the coach he slapped in March after Wasl's Etisalat Cup semi-final defeat to Ahli. At the time, Naser was given a 17-game suspension by the Football Association's Disciplinary Committee, but then saw it extended to six months in June when he butted an opposition player in the GCC Champions League final loss to Al Muharraq, the Bahrain side.

Wasl originally had requested the FA to ban the goalkeeper for an entire season.

Naser's move to Ahli therefore comes as something of a shock, with Sanchez Flores revealing the club will not concentrate solely on enhancing the player's technical ability but also work on the psychological side of his game.

Should Naser embrace the rehabilitative exercise, Sanchez Flores said he will represent a positive addition to the squad.

"I know there are many question marks about how I deal with Majed, but we are one family here at Al Ahli," the Spaniard said.

"Everyone in the dressing room works to uphold team spirit and contribute to returning us to the top of the table.

"Majed has an artistic personality and a lot of talent. Everyone knows he is the UAE's best goalkeeper, and the coaching staff will aim to maximise his potential in a different way than previously.

"We will work hand-in-hand to help Majed regain confidence, as well as help him banish the negative aspects from his personality. The team's interest is at the forefront of my priorities, but we will deal with Majed carefully."

Naser, who at 28 realises he has been granted an unlikely opportunity to rescue his career, had been linked with Ahli during the summer, although Abdullah Saeed Al Naboodah, the club's chairman, dismissed the speculation, saying on Twitter: "There is no agreement or contract with them. Ended."

Naser, having gone immediately after the incident to Sanchez Flores's home to offer his apology, will serve until December the remainder of his ban, but until then will feature in reserve-team matches.

"I learnt a lot in the previous period, especially off the pitch," Naser told the Arabic-language newspaper Al Ittihad.

"I do not like losing, and I also learnt there is no room for mistakes in the future.

"I am looking for a way back to defending the team jersey, and I was encouraged to make the move for my family.

"I sat down with Quique, a coach whom I respect, and he told me he was not angry; that anything can happen in football. I asked Quique to open a new page in my career as a player with Al Ahli and the national team."

jmcauley@thenational.ae

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