x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Al Ain say Asamoah Gyan is set but question Yasser Al Qahtani's future

Al Ain say keeping Asamoah Gyan around will not be a problem, but they are wondering who they should partner him with.

Asamoah Gyan, right, appears set to return to Al Ain for next season. In 22 appearances this season he scored 22 times, 17 goals coming in Pro League games.
Asamoah Gyan, right, appears set to return to Al Ain for next season. In 22 appearances this season he scored 22 times, 17 goals coming in Pro League games.

With the purchase of Asamoah Gyan reduced to "a formality", the new Pro League champions Al Ain now have a more difficult decision to make on his strike partner, Yasser Al Qahtani.

The Saudi Arabia international is on loan from Al Hilal, the big Riyadh club, and the agreement does not contain the same language as does Gyan's deal, which allows Al Ain to purchase the Ghanaian forward for an estimated £3.5 million (Dh20.9m) from the English Premier League side Sunderland.

Carlo Nohra, the chief executive at Al Ain, said the Gyan deal "is a loan agreement with an option to buy".

He added: "We have indicated to Sunderland, some time ago, that we want to keep him and he wants to stay, and now it's a formality.

"Whether it will happen, theoretically we have an agreement. It should happen. But this is football and there are always loopholes. Until I see his signature on a line, and have an international transfer in my hands, I'm not going to say he's our player."

Nohra expects the paperwork to be completed by June.

Al Qahtani represents a more subtle decision-making process.

Gyan's league-leading 17 goals in 15 games are evidence aplenty that he is a productive player.

Al Qahtani, 29, has a more modest six goals in 13 league games, but he was injured early in the season, and two of his league goals came in Al Ain's clinching victory, the 2-0 triumph over Al Jazira on Friday.

"Those two goals, it adds to his stardom," Nohra said. "But how we proceed with him is a matter for the technical committee, and they have not yet communicated their recommendations."

Al Qahtani for several years was the captain of the Saudi national team, and he scored 59 goals for his country, including one in the 2006 World Cup, before announcing last month his retirement from international football.

Al Hilal this year have built their attack around a pair of foreigners, the Moroccan Youssuf El Arabi and the Korean Yoo Byung-soo, and it is not clear how hard a deal they would drive on Al Qahtani.

Cosmin Olaroiu, the Al Ain coach, called for Al Qahtani to be retained after the victory over Jazira, noting his penchant for "scoring goals in finals and big games".

However, it is believed that Al Ain were considering replacing him, at least before the Jazira match.

Mirel Radoi, the Romanian midfielder, and Ignacio Scocco, the Argentine forward, are completing the first year of multi-year contracts, Nohra said.

The chief executive said Al Ain's decisions will take into account their presence in the Asian Champions League next season.

"When trying to reclaim someone like Gyan, subliminally, we have 'Champions League' flashing in our minds," Nohra said, "and by winning the league we qualify for Asia, and it's more than important to keep a player like him.

"And as a club who have won the Champions League once, in 2003, we would like to do it again; it's important that we carry on that very important pedigree."

Gyan, 26, has made clear he would like to remain with the new champions. "I am honestly and definitely happy where I am playing now," he said.

 

poberjuerge@thenational.ae

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