Al Qahtani ready to lead Al Ain
Yasser Al Qahtani, the Saudi Arabia captain, is set to resume his partnership with Mirel Radoi Saturday night as they aim to bring the good times back at Al Ain.
Al Qahtani and the Romanian played together at the Saudi giants, Al Hilal, before joining the nine-time UAE league champions in close season.
The pair, along with Ignacio Scocco, the Argentine winger, will be in action in front of their home fans for the first time as Al Ain open their pre-season friendly schedule against Al Riffa of Bahrain at the Khalifa bin Zayed stadium at 10pm.
Al Shabab of Saudi Arabia and Al Suwaiq of Oman are also taking part in the competition, which will be played in a round-robin format.
The winners will receive Dh300,000 and the runners-up Dh200,000.
Al Qahtani is on a one-year loan from Hilal and moved to Al Ain as their Asian foreign player as per the guidelines laid out by the Asian Football Confederation on the three-plus-one rule, that allows clubs to sign four foreign players as long as one carries an Asian passport.
"We, in Saudi Arabia, follow UAE's football very closely," Al Qahtani said. "I know a lot about Al Ain. They are one of the leading clubs, not only in the country but in Asia, and a team with great potential to win championship titles. I am also aware they had a poor last season, and as I was made to understand they have left no stones unturned to get the club back to their old glory days."
Al Ain finished 10th in the league last term, just avoiding relegation, which prompted wholesale changes in the club's management. The new administration, headed by Sheikh Abdulla bin Mohammed bin Khalid, wasted no time in strengthening the squad.
The Romanian, Cosmin Olaroui, as coach, and the have already signed three of their four foreign players. They have also signed several Emiratis.
This is in stark contrast to last season, when they were late signing foreign players and eventually ended up drafting Juma Saeed, the 19-year-old Ivorian, from the youth team on the final day of the transfer window.
Helal Saeed, who returned to Al Ain after a two-year spell with Al Jazira, where he won the league and President's Cup double, is delighted the club have signed Al Qahtani.
"The experience Yasser has with the Saudi national team and Al Hilal, in addition to his excellent skill in scoring, makes him one of the most important deals for Al Ain," the UAE midfielder said.
"He doesn't need an introduction because he is well known in this part of the world and his career history with the Saudi national team and Hilal is ample proof of his abilities. I know Yasser personally and he is definitely a significant addition to the squad."
Al Ain are yet to sign the fourth foreigner to complete their quota.
AL AIN ROUND-ROBIN TOURNAMENT
Al Ain v Al Riffa, 10pm
Al Suwaiq v Al Shabab, 10pm
Al Ain v Al Suwaiq, 10pm
Al Shabab v Al Riffa, 10pm
Al Riffa v Al Suwaiq, 10pm
Al Ain v Al Shabab, 11.30pm