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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 17 January 2019

Al Ain sign Japanese defender Tsukasa Shiotani ahead of Arabian Gulf League season

Garden City club begin filling vacuum left by their foreign trio Lee Myung-joo, Nasser Al Shamrani and Danilo Asprilla, writes Amith Passela.
Tsukasa Shiotani has joined Al Ain ahead of the new Arabian Gulf League season. Courtesy Al Ain FC
Tsukasa Shiotani has joined Al Ain ahead of the new Arabian Gulf League season. Courtesy Al Ain FC

Al Ain have completed the signing of Japanese defender Tsukasa Shiotani as they try to fill the vacuum left by the departures of their foreign trio Lee Myung-joo, Nasser Al Shamrani and Danilo Asprilla.

Shiotani replaces South Korean Lee, who left after three years to return home to complete his national service, while striker Al Shamrani has returned to his native Saudi Arabia with parent club Al Hilal after serving a six-month loan. Colombian winger Asprilla is moving to China.

“We have signed Shiotani on a two-year deal on the confidence our manager Zoran Mamic has placed on him,” said Ahmed Humaid Al Mazrouei, vice chairman of the club’s board of directors when presenting the player to the media on Wednesday.

“We hope the new player will be a good addition to our squad and will combine with the rest of the squad to fulfill the ambitions of our fans, especially in the Asian Champions League.”

Al Ain have reached the quarter-finals of the continental competition and meet Al Hilal in the first of two legs at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium on August 21. The return leg will be played at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium in Riyadh on September 11.

Shiotani, 28, a defensive midfielder who can also play as a centre-back, arrives from his J1 League side Sanfrecce Hiroshima where he plied his trade for five seasons.

Shiotani won three J League and three Super Cup titles with Hiroshima. He has two international caps for Japan and was a member of the country’s Olympic team in Rio de Janeiro.

“I’m so proud to wear the Al Ain shirt and play alongside the Asian Player of the Year Omar Abdulrahman,” Shiotani said. “There is no player in Japan who does not know Omar and Al Ain as one of the leading clubs in the continent.

“I’m aware of the high expectations that the club and the fans from me. And from my side, I will put all my efforts to contribute to achieve all objectives of the club during my time at Al Ain.”

Al Ain went down to Korean side Jeonbuk Motors in last year’s ACL final 3-2 on aggregate and Shiotani is hoping they can go one better this time around.

“I’m already looking forward to the game against Al Hilal,” he said. “It’s an important first game coming after the summer break.

“I wish I can adapt as quickly as possible to strike a good combination with my teammates. Obviously, I want to make an immediate impact to prove my value to the team.

“Aside the continental championship, I’m also looking forward to the domestic competitions and help my new club to challenge for all titles.”

apassela@thenational.ae

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Updated: June 15, 2017 04:00 AM

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